So, this little gem of a boutique festival reaches the grand old age of 9 years old! I've been fortunate enough to have attended 4 of them now, and it always amazes me that year upon year you often see the same familiar faces among the crowd which I think speaks volumes about this unique gathering. The setting itself, on Easton Farm Park in deepest rural Suffolk just outside of Ipswich, means that it's never going to be a squeeze-'em-in and fleece them for what they're worth type event. With the capacity strictly controlled, and Paul Spencer and Ken Ansell's attention to detail regarding ethical and fair priced stall holders and site lay out, this is clearly a labour of love and that is reflected by the people that attend - this is a friendly festival, where kids and adults alike can enjoy some of the finest roots music from around the world and not worry about being caked in mud (concrete paths and mostly indoor stages), stuck in miles long traffic queues, or being ripped off by unscrupulous traders.
For me as a regular attendee, what also appeals is the diversity of music that is on of-fer throughout the three days. Yes, there are plenty of acts that a lot of people have heard of. But, for me it's always about discovering your new favourite music, and this year was no exception with some top line acts and lots of up and coming artists from both sides of the pond, ripping it up and leaving lasting impressions on everyone they touched.
Of course, with in the region of 50 artists / bands to choose from, it's just physically impossible to catch all of the acts, so to review each and every musician is never going to happen, but with the exception of a ten minute period of rain, the sun shone (most-ly!), the beer flowed and here are my highlights of what was yet another exceptional weekend of high class Americana.
Andrew Duhon - Grammy nominated for his latest album "The Moorings", it's not difficult to see why. A genuine world class songwriter and teller of stories, from New Orleans. Songs like "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To", and "Just Another Beautiful Girl" are prime examples of what makes this man so special. Beautifully played acoustic guitar, set to astute, observational, and emotionally moving lyrics. Not only can Mr Duhon sing like a dream, he plays like one too! Closing his Saturday set with two slide blues numbers "Sidestep Your Grave" and "Street Fair", he had the rammed Peacock stage crowd in the palm of his hand.
Carter Sampson - Her new album "Wilder Side" has literally just been released, and it is a first rate album that has garnered critical acclaim from just about every quarter. It was going to prove interesting to see how those songs sounded with just Carter and her trusty acoustic. Well it certainly proved that a good song is a good song no matter what the setting! Carter's voice is enough - crystal clear, strident, but with just an un-dercurrent of fragility. Ally that to song writing of the highest calibre and it's easy to see why the star of this charming lady is in the ascendency.
The Black Feathers - Newly returned from a 2 month tour of the States, Sian and Ray could be found nestled in the compact and bijou Moonshine Bar on the Saturday evening. Still buoyed by the stunning critical success of their debut album "Soaked To The Bone", they proceeded to wow the packed crowd with their usual combination of drop-dead harmonies, magical songs, and effortlessly natural comedic between song banter.
Dan Walsh - The Hendrix of the banjo world! You know you have a special talent if you can make a packed barn stage whoop and holler at the end of a 30 minute set of, essentially, banjo virtuosity.
Yola Carter - This amazing lady has a vocal talent the size of the Shard! Along with her wonderful 7 piece band, she had the Friday night Barn stage crowd rocking along to her soulful upbeat country vibes. Her effervescent stage presence and big broad smile was a joy to witness, and no wonder she left the stage at the end of her set to a tremendous reception. This is one young woman who is going all the way to the top, of that I have no doubt!
Robert Vincent - A home grown musical talent, and no surprise that Bob Harris picked him as his "Emerging Artist" at this year's Americana Music Association UK Awards. Here Robert was backed by his razor sharp band, and the results were stun-ning. A set brim full of fire, passion, great playing, great singing and superb songs. And to prove that was no fluke, they did exactly the same on the Alabama stage the following day!
Luke Winslow King - Due to the vagaries of timings, I didn't catch either of Luke's sets on Friday or Saturday, but did manage to catch the New Orleans blues guitar maestro on his set that officially closed the festival on Sunday afternoon. And indeed it was a fitting way to close the festival - it summed up everything that this wonder-ful festival is all about. Luke began solo, jitterbugging us through the infectious "Coming Tide", before bringing on NOLA buddy Andrew Duhon for a stunning ver-sion of the gospel "Up Above My Head". Then for the next half hour, Luke brought on the band, and they tore through the remainder of their set with some authentic high octane twin guitar based old time blues, that pretty near ripped the roof off the Barn.
Cover Version Of The Week - This prize has to go to the Flat Mountain Family Band, all the way from Essex country, who zipped through a 'grassed up version of T Rex's "Hot Love".
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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