After little sleep, Saturday began the way Friday had ended… with a fabulous set from Sonia Leigh. As a very large crowd gathered and sunned themselves on the grass Sonia took to the Roadhouse stage which was now outdoors, many people had shades on, I’m not sure if that was to shield the sun or to hide the tired, hungover look in their eyes as many partied long into the night at the afterparties. Sonia’s acoustic set saw her play some of our favourites like Put It In Your Pocket and Booty Call which she closed her set with but we also heard another song she’d not played live before Slip Away. She invited Tony Moore on stage with her to play keys, he played on her most recent album Sonia Leigh and Friends. One of my favourite songs off that record made the set, Ladder to the Moon and from her 2014 record Fairytale Dream. Even without a full band the set was full of energy. To begin with the noise from the other stages could be heard over Sonia who made a joke about it but ever the pro she managed to keep the audience engaged and everyone soon forgot about the background noise.
After Sonia’s set I headed over to check out some of the traders who had been pitched there all weekend. There was everything from boots and hats to guitars made by Atkins which people were welcome to try out. Whilst browsing I found The Adelaides on The Ridge stage, their beautiful harmonies ringing out over the festival grounds. Meanwhile on The Roadhouse stage Steve Young had just set up and he and his band played mostly upbeat original Country-pop songs. He told the story of how he came to write his first song back in 2014 before playing the song which featured on his first EP. Then it was back to The Ridge stage for Jarrod Dickenson. In between the music we caught up with several artists throughout the weekend including US rising Country star Ben Danaher who was playing at Haley’s Bar. He’d had a bit of a rough trip after paying for flights to support Wade Bowen on tour only to have the tour cancelled due to Wade’s ill health, his European trip hadn’t turned out well so far but Ben said this festival was now the highlight of his trip and had made it worthwhile. He’s heading back to support Lori McKenna on tour now and we’ll bring you the full interview soon.
On the Main Stage Ashley Campbell captivated the audience with her phenomenal banjo playing abilities. For the people who knew Ashley’s dad they may have known what an incredible musician she is as she played Banjo in her dad’s band but as she came out in a red jump suit and big sunglasses she tickled the audience with her humour as she talked about her songs and played songs off her new record The Lonely One such as Better Boyfriend and Looks Like Time which are littered with clever, funny lyrics. Her band consisted of a fiddle player, guitarist and a talented lap steel player who dressed the part in his white suit and stetson. The festival was much busier on Saturday and all five music stages by 3pm had large audiences none more so than the main stage. Ashley disappeared off stage and an encore was called for, so Ashley and her lap steel player returned for a cover of Jolene by Dolly Parton.
John Moreland took to the main stage after Ashley and he emerged to a loud roar from the crowd who were obviously quite big fans. Meanwhile Ashley must have dashed across to the supajam stage in about half an hour as she was one of the songwriters in the round which kicked off at 4.35. The programme just said Songwriter Session and so it was a nice surprise to see Ashley pop up again alongside Jarrod Dickenson, Eric Bibb and Ward Thomas. The tent was rather full when I got there as the songwriters had just begun to walk out. Ward Thomas kicked things off, it was nice to see the twins in this more intimate setting as they sang some of their well known songs and told the stories behind them. Ashley brought a tear to everyone’s eyes as she told the story behind her song Remembering in the last round and began to get emotional herself but she powered through a memorable performance of the song which features on the soundtrack of the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.
The next artist in the round Eric Bibb is a new name to me and a few others who were present at the festival but he has been one of the most talked about on social media since his appearance at Black Deer. However it became apparent in that round that Bibb is an accomplished blues singer-songwriter and it was fascinating to hear his music and learn about his life as he sang everything with a contented smile. Jarrod Dickenson who’d already played and had another slot on Haley’s bar later took to the Songwriters stage. He’s a great lyricist and his vocals are lovely. He invited his wife on stage to sing with him, she was sporting some lovely cowboy boots with cacti on and both their voices together were lush and reminded me slightly of Chris Stapleton and his wife who sings with him on tour.
Following this I headed into the pit of the main stage to photograph Kiefer Sutherland who was a little eccentric and very energetic! The crowd talked about him all weekend, there was a lot of anticipation around his set. Many people who knew him as an actor didn’t know what to expect from him as a musician. Before he entered the stage I noticed what looked like a bedside table with a lamp on it. As he came out to loud cheers he held up a glass of Whisky to the crowd. His band were also dressed the part in stetsons and fancy shirts. In between his songs he talked about his life as a champion roper on the rodeo circuit. His husky vocals went down well with the crowd and he had them laughing with his stories about the first time he went in a bar.
Kiefer was a tough act to follow but Ward Thomas managed to do it quite well. The girls had a few problems to begin with as they stepped out on stage, their band was ready but as they approached the mic stands they realised they had no mics. A comedy sketch ensued as the girls wandered round to one side of the stage and a man came with the mics from the other direction, he went back to find them as they appeared again, it was like a pantomime. Eventually they got the mics and the crowd cheered. They began with an acapella song before breaking out into some fan favourites from their album Cartwheels. Throughout their set they talked about the new songs they’ve been working on for the next record including one about getting stressed when things go wrong, the girls referred back to the earlier confusion before beginning to play some of the new material. After hearing some of the newer songs, I’m excited for their next record.
Then it was time for the headliner Iron and Wine who rather fittingly came out with a glass of red. I was very impressed with their set-up and the creativity of the drummer/percussionist. In the first song she had sleigh bells which she held above her head and slowly and quietly jingled. I only knew one Iron and Wine song beforehand, the one which appeared on the Twilight soundtrack but I was a fan after his set. His soft, breathy vocals are beautiful and the lyrical content of his songs are quite interesting. The crowd loved his set as they basked in the glorious sunset which was as colourful as the festival flags and big tops scattered around Eridge Park. As I headed back I heard the fantastic Whiskey Shivers entertaining a packed tent on The Ridge stage and Black Water County also had a large crowd on the supajam stage, their brand of foot stomping folk-punk was a brilliant way to end the Saturday.