Monday, 16 December 2013

Top 10 Festival Sets of 2013

Between the summer months of June to September, 14 days were spent soaking up the atmosphere at 7 festivals spanning the Atlantic. Out of the many artists’ sets witnessed, the selections detailed below provide a snapshot of the experiences most enjoyed and all had that extra personal appeal to take a rightful place in the 2013 roll of honour.

1. Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison – Calgary Folk Festival  Sunday 28th July

This well respected iconic husband and wife duo of Texas music came together in 2013 to record an exceptional album which they brought to life on a makeshift stage at the flood stricken Calgary Folk Festival in July. From Kelly lending her vocals to the superlative ‘9999999 Tears’ to Bruce showcasing his classic song writing skills with the much loved ‘Travellin’ Soldier’, they lived up to the high expectations with a performance to cap a truly memorable 4 day festival in this resilient Canadian city.

 2. Hannah Lou and Trevor Moss – Maverick Festival Saturday 6th July.

The art of sharing a single microphone was captured astutely by another husband and wife duo during a set which once again illuminated a small festival gathering. The cohesive and evocative style from 2 voices, 2 guitars and a single tambourine had a special feel to it which confirmed the promise previously surfacing within earlier album and live reviews. The experience of sitting right up to the stage enabled a captivating transmission of this talent and a 40 minute exposure of pure bliss.

Full review of the Maverick Festival

3. Alabama Shakes – Calgary Folk Festival Thursday 25th July

The sheer emotion, vitality and passion of an Alabama Shakes live show is a treasure to be in the company of and when the exertions of Brittany Howard see the trademark glasses removed then you know the impressive front person of this southern blues, rock and soul band is giving her all. It may have been a standard performance from this highly rated band, who had consistently wooed festival goers on both sides of the Atlantic, but it brought to a memorable first day close, a festival literally resurrected from the ravages of a great flood only weeks before.

4. John Fulbright – Calgary Folk Festival Saturday 27th July

The talents and song writing maturity of John Fulbright have garnered serious recognition in the Americana world since the launch of his Grammy nominated album. Tours of the UK have raised his profile over here but for me his lunch time set at Calgary went a long way to explaining why this native of Oklahoma is destined for a long and successful career. Whether on guitar or piano, the mood created by John made this set an unforgettable experience.

Full review of the Calgary Folk Festival

5. Dennis Ellsworth – Maverick Festival Saturday 6th July

Dennis Ellsworth has won over many fans during his venture to create a foothold in the UK over the last year. Headline gigs, support slots, album launch and working alongside Clubhouse Records artists have all helped Dennis in his quest, but his year was surely topped with this outstanding Saturday evening set in the Barn superbly assisted by BJ Cole on Pedal Steel with Paul and Barbara Spencer completing the impromptu band line up.

6. Terri Clark – Big Valley Jamboree Sunday 4th August

Having been privileged to saviour an intimate acoustic Terri Clark show in Birmingham last year, the pleasure has now been extended to a full band set in her home Canadian province of Alberta. There was a retro feel to the time on stage as she treated her local fans to a celebration of a near 20 year-long hit making career. Nostalgia was on the menu and no-one at this premier country music festival was going to complain.

Full review of the Big Valley Jamboree

7. Redlands Palomino Company – Palmfest Saturday 1st June

Although periods between seeing this band live have been lengthy, it literally only takes a few songs to get back into them and realise what an exceptional act on stage they are. On a celebrated day of what the UK can deliver in terms of Americana music, Alex, Hannah and the boys showcased our  scene to be in a very healthy state with a performance of energy, wit and damn good country flavoured rock.

Full review of Palmfest

8.Tim McGraw – Big Valley Jamboree Sunday 4th August

Having starting the year a little indifferent to this country superstar, circumstances dictated to seeing him perform twice in 2013. Aided by an eponymous career album release, McGraw toned down the rock stature and sound he extolled in London, to come across more as a country performer at a location a little closer to his home. Not quite the find of the year but an artist who grew enormously in appreciation after listening and understanding him further.

9. Del Barber – Canmore Folk Festival Monday 5th August

The last minute detour to this Rocky Mountain festival was a rewarding experience and led to the discovery of this Canadian troubadour who caught the eye with a quality amalgam of country folk song writing and engaging storytelling. Record deal developments and a brief incursion into the UK market will hopefully raise Del’s profile over here as he certainly left a favourable impression at this picturesque location.

Full review of the Canmore Folk Festival

10. The Be Good Tanyas – Moseley Folk Festival Sunday 1st September

This performance on ‘folk’ day at Birmingham’s premier music festival confirmed to me the long standing appreciation and deserved reputation this band have on the Canadian and wider roots world scene. It has been well documented that their February Midlands performance fell short on expectation in certain quarters but Frazey, Trish et al were on top form to bring the year’s festival watching to a close.

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