Well this weekend there is so much going on, I was torn between three festivals all with a great line up of Country and Americana, can you believe that? Anyway I headed to Gateshead, for the SummerTyne Americana Festival. I had heard a lot about it in previous years but had not yet had the pleasure of checking it out myself. I’ve just returned from day 1 though and boy am I glad I chose to come here! The line up is fantastic, so good that it’s hard to decide which shows to go to and though Americana is in the title, there’s really something for everyone; Country, Blues, Soul. I arrived around 1pm and though the sun hadn’t yet made an appearance the Jumpin’ Hot stage just outside the sage had attracted a large crowd and with good reason. The musicianship was good, there was a lot of talent on stage. All the acts in that location today were new to me. The vibe was great though throughout the day. There was a lovely drinks reception in which Sam Outlaw performed and Tamsin the programmer at the Sage gave a few words. The team there were all incredibly helpful and surprisingly very calm, I thought organising a festival would be stressful but those ladies have got it all together and seem to be enjoying themselves as well which is great to see!
Before the crowds split off and headed into Sage 1 for The Shires and Sage 2 for Merle Haggard’s Strangers featuring Ben and Noel Haggard, Stax Academy Revue took to the stage on the concourse between the two auditoriums. Never have I seen a more energetic group of people, for a good 45 minutes or so they were all dancing and clapping as they played and sang their hearts out. Everyone there was blown away by the group of youngsters from Tennessee who really got everybody in the mood for a great time, what a wonderful way to really kick off proceedings at the sage, everyone was on their feet, grinning like cheshire cats by the time they got to the end of their set.
Then, after interviewing her earlier in the day, it was time for Ashley Campbell in Sage 2 to take to the stage. Along with her brother Shannon on guitar, her fiddle player Eli and Dobro player William, Ashley picked up the banjo and began with the humorous song I’d be a better boyfriend than you. I’ve seen Ashley play at C2C Festival in London and I was thoroughly impressed with her Banjo skills, I didn’t however realise at the time what a lovely tone she has to her voice. She continued to demonstrate those great banjo skills though as she played an instrumental which is going to be included on her debut album along with another song she played Good For You which lyrically is very well written. Much to the crowds delight, she played Gentle On My Mind which was beautiful even if the two siblings did make a tiny mistake, the atmosphere was relaxed and they both just looked at each other, laughed and then continued and the crowd didn’t mind one bit. She reduced me to tears when she sang Remembering, a song she wrote for her Dad when she learnt of his illness and a song which is on the soundtrack of the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me which won a grammy. After tonights performance, I can’t wait for her album to come out, the legend’s daughter is really going to make waves in Country music and may one day become a legend herself.
Merle Haggards Strangers and his sons Ben and Noel took to the stage not long after. They said they’d been travelling around since their dad passed away just over a year ago paying tribute to him and letting him know that they still loved him. Well that was clear and though the crowd were fairly reserved it was still evident that they still loved the man and his music and were grateful his sons carried it on. Again, it was a relaxed atmosphere and though they had a sheet of paper telling them what songs to play they played what they felt although that was partly down to Noel not being able to see his list of songs! My favourite was either Mama Tried which they performed close to the end of the set or Okie from Muskogee. The brothers took it in turn to take the lead on different songs and Ben in particular was a fantastic guitarist! In both their set and Ashley’s there was a lot of humour, their pedal steel player who had been in the band for 49 years was both funny and phenomenal (I do love a good pedal steel though and he is one of the best out there!) They threw some Folsom Prison Blues in their set and the crowd at various points throughout the show clapped along. When it was time for them to exit the stage the crowd shouted for more and clapped until they returned and for the encore they sang Sing Me Back Home.
Tomorrow along with the other stages that have been on today there will be river cruises which sound great and it’s such a unique experience to have someone of Ashley Campbell’s calibre serenading you as you travel up and down the gorgeous river Tyne. I hope the weather stays fine for the people heading off on that tomorrow morning! It’s bound to be a fantastic fun filled weekend! I hope everyone at Blackthorn and Nashville Meets London is having as good a time as I am!