It surely can't be a coincidence that my third straight year of visiting the Saturday of the Maverick festival would yet again be blessed with glorious sunshine especially in a summer littered with record rainfall. Perhaps it has something to do with the finest annual assembling of country, roots and Americana artists on UK soil that is somehow granted the privilege to perform in a perfect setting each year. So once those omnipresent rain clouds had cleared during the 175 mile drive to this tranquil Suffolk location, the stage was set for the relentless procession of high quality gifted musicians purveying the fruits of their creative craft.
Circumstances dictate that only the Saturday of this festival can be attended, so for me this year there was sadly no Corb Lund or Emily Barker who no doubt gave fine performances during the Friday evening slots that launch the weekend. Also the opportunity for the Sunday morning chill out with the remaining artists participating in the closing gospel brunch is missed, but the soul of the festival resides in the 12 hours plus of pure entertainment that embraces the Saturday. Even then it is maybe next time for such acclaimed artists as Amelia Curran and Rose Cousins as well as the several other dedicated acts that committed no other indiscretion than having a schedule clash with another top class performer and that is always the downside to assembling such an impressive cast of participants. Most of the artists making the final cut of my extensive featured list had been witnessed live before but a festival would not be complete without that experience of elevating a first time seen artist into the upper echelons of your live appreciation list.
Sarah MacDougall, the opening artist of this linear review, does not fall into this category as she gave a fine intimate performance at the Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham a couple of years ago. On that occasion she was in collaboration with a fellow Canadian artist, but as this year was literally a whirlwind couple of days UK trip, she elected to play solo and used her 40 minute pre-noon Barn slot to play a series of songs from her most recent release 'The Greatest Ones Alive'. Sarah's brand of Canadian folk is inspired by a decision to seek a near isolated residence in the Yukon territory of her homeland and you get a sense of this environment with the songs selected for this set such as 'Permafrost' and 'Cold Night'. The small lunch time gathering helped her along by accepting the invitation to participate in the chorus of 'It's a Storm?', although the best song of the set 'We're All Gonna Blow Away' also has sing-along credentials to its composition.
Scott Poley and Cara Luft
The festival is centred on three stages with the accurately named Barn hosting acts throughout the duration of the day while the outdoor Maverick Stage shares billing with the Peacock Café following an early evening switchover. The outdoor stage was beginning to bathe in the most welcome afternoon sunshine by the time Cara Luft took to it with her newest musical collaborator, British artist Scott Poley. Cara was just coming to the end of an extensive UK tour promoting her new album 'Darlingford' and it was not surprising to see most of her set comprise of songs from this record. With festival appearances having a limited time allowance, alluring stories that accompany the songs of artists such as Cara are regrettably curtailed but the strength of tracks such as 'Idaho', 'Only Love Can Save Me' and 'It's Gonna Be Alright' support their performance well. In line with the banjo workshop she was involved with later, Cara used the opportunity, as previously done in other gigs during the tour, to demonstrate her twist on rock classic 'Sweet Child of Mine' with this much maligned instrument. The mood and essence of Cara's performance would have probably been more suited to the Barn but she signed off this UK visit leaving good memories after catching her live a couple of times over the last month.
Amy Speace is not an artist who has come across my radar before but that situation was rectified following her mid afternoon slot in the Barn. Hailing from New Jersey but now residing like so many in Nashville, Amy is certainly slanting towards the folk side of the Americana spectrum and can number the legendary Judy Collins amongst her admirers. In fact a song featuring in Amy's set, the impressive 'Weight of the World', gained further prominence by being covered by Collins who has taken a keen interest in her career. Like so many artists on view, Amy is in the UK to promote a new album and used her set to preview a couple of songs from the upcoming release 'Land Like a Bird' including 'Ghost' and 'Vertigo'. Amy uses her natural charm to portray the model of a folk-inspired singer-songwriter and she recalled a tale of spending hours with other artists at festivals across the U.S before launching into 'It's Too Late To Call It a Night', a song written with Jonathan Byrd who visits this country for an appearance at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival later in the summer. She's spending most of July in this country opening for Alejandro Escovedo and is definitely an artist to explore further.
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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