Bath’s recent Americana Festival, the brainchild of Cllr. Bryan Chalker (who becomes Mayor of Bath on June 4) has proved to be a great critical and artistic success, with audiences right across the age spectrum clamouring to hear more of Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, the Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys, Tjaye Martin, Ian Calford & The Railmen, Bob Fish and all the others who turned out to make incredible music from May 18-22. 
Chalker, a long-time devotee and former exponent of all forms of old-time country music, spent a total of nine months putting the Festival together and it sprang to life on Wednesday, May 18 with a remarkable concert at St. Mark’s School, Lambridge, Bath, presented by Charlie Boston’s Olde Boston Tea Party bluegrass ensemble featuring Ced Thorose (dobro) and Dave Hatfield (upright bass and vocals).  Other schools in the area were treated to Appalachian clogging, courtesy of the Applejacks and Kate Lissauer & Jenny, and an innovative ‘bluegrass workshop’ led by local singer-songwriter Tjaye Martin and attracting nineteen musicians – of all ages – to create Bath’s first Bluegrass Orchestra.  Ian Calford’s three-piece unit, which recreates the Johnny Cash sound of the mid-’50s, was augmented by Jane Ballantyne (fiddle) and Bob Fish (autoharp) to create a ‘Johnny Cash Meets The Carter Family’ element – and Leon Hunt & The Scoville Units proved that bluegrass music can deviate from the mainstream to become hugely innovative and attract a huge following.
The Americana Festival was also an opportunity for the curious to sample the delights of Appalachian style music for the first time and leave the event wanting more.  Even Bryan Chalker was tempted out of musical retirement to perform three songs with Tjaye Martin and has now been asked if he will consider putting together a bluegrass-style  group during his year as Mayor of Bath and fronting it as lead vocalist.  As one lady was heard to say at Brian Golbey’s American Museum performance on May 22, “Chalker’s going to be one cool mayor!”
In the meantime Brian Chalker is looking to make bluegrass music more prominent on the Bath landscape with regular performances in a couple of the city’s venues – and several musicians have already volunteered their services. More details to be announced shortly.

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