Southern Fried Festival 2017 will always have a big place in my heart. I was looking forward to it so much that when I left my old job at Aviva I made sure that my leaving date was just prior to the festival starting so I wouldn’t miss anything. Last year’s festival is also when I started seeing my girlfriend Jo. I’d agreed to review pretty much everything, so when my buddy couldn’t make the Chuck Berry tribute I offered his ticket to the lovely Jo and the rest is Rock n’ Roll history!
when my buddy couldn’t make the Chuck Berry tribute I offered his ticket to the lovely Jo and the rest is Rock n’ Roll history!It wasn’t just my soul mate that I discovered at Southern Fried last year though, I was also introduced to some great artists that I’d never heard before. Acts like twang-tastic troubadour Doug Seeger and sardonic singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. To top it off I got to see ‘Jesus of Cool’ Nick Lowe and soaked up the sunshine at the outdoor stage while listening to local blues heroes Wang Dang Delta. Every morning I would get up early and write a McDonalds breakfast fuelled review of the previous evening before hitting the town and starting all over again.
2018 is shaping up to be another doozy! I’m really looking forward to an evening of exquisite songs from former Hollie and Crosby, Stills, Nash (&Young) alumni Graham Nash, a little taste of Texas with Rodney Crowell, and the return of Steve Earle this time accompanied by his old friends The Dukes. In the meantime though here are my highlights of last year’s festival.
Heading up this amazing line-up tonight was famous Welsh singer-songwriter and guitar hero Andy Fairweather Low, who with his first band Amen Corner wrote one of my top ten favourite songs (If Paradise is) Half as Nice. Things get off to a rocking start with one of Berry's best known hits Route 66 finding both Andy and his guitar in great voice. However, it wasn't just Andy in the spotlight tonight as we’re treated to a baffling area of guest singers and even whole bands in the form of Flats & Sharps.
It was like sitting in on a recording of a classic episode of Later... With Jools Holland every song better than the last. It's hard to pick favourites but both me and my plus one Jo where very taken with James Hunter's energy and playing on Brown Eyed Handsome Man. He definitely has a bit of a Joe Strummer vibe that lends a bit of edge to the proceedings.
Another great thing about the night was the way the songs can meld to the artist's personality. The way that bluegrass Flats & Sharps re-imagine Downbound Train as something sounding not unlike a Nick Cave murder ballad is truly mesmerising. As Angaleena Presley said later on at her Salutation Hotel gig perhaps the closest in voice and spirit to Chuck Berry is Scotland's own Hamish Stewart. The man's voice is just awesome and he and Andy have a natural rapport that is a joy to watch.
Speaking of amazing voices I couldn't mention the awesome Cyndi Cain and her rendition of a song I've never heard before (or maybe I have but just not like this) the strutting, sexy I'm a Rocker. I've made a note to check out the original but I honestly can't imagine it being any better than Cyndi's version. The show ends with all the guests on the stage for a final number followed by a standing ovation.
This night looked set to be a triple threat with country singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, Jesus of Cool Nick Lowe and king of twang, guitarist and singer Doug Seeger.
First up to bat is Jim Lauderdale as he takes to the Concert Hall stage in a pair of sequinned trousers that would have Gram Parsons grinning in approval. One of the things that's always appealed to me about authentic country music is storytelling and humour and it is here that Jim really excels. He gives us the background to many of the songs, for example, The King of Broken Hearts was written as a tribute to George Jones and the aforementioned Gram Parsons. Jim also has an easy rapport with the audience quipping that the recent Scottish "heatwave" has him "sweating like Nigel Farage at a Billy Bragg concert". That's a great line and I'm stealing it. Sorry Jim. He plays a host of material from his career but the standout for me is Honky Tonk Haze which has brought to mind Willie Nelson particularly the excellent vocal.
Next up is Nick Lowe. I’m really looking forward to this. I discovered Nick's work the same way a lot of people probably do, through Elvis Costello's version of (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding. Then as a bit of a movie buff, I heard Mark Kermode pick Nicks album Jesus of Cool as his album of the week for what must have been a solid two year period! I finally relented and bought it and he was right, it is one of the most awesome albums ever. The cover art alone is worth the price of admission!
As his solo spot kicks off with People Change I'm immediately impressed by how good his voice is. I don't know if it has got better over the years or it is something that I've taken for granted but man it is as smooth as honey! When we get a couple of songs in we are warned that he won't be able to do a wee backstory for every song as his songs are so short that it would take all night. However, because his songs are so short it means that although he has had a long career you are still in with a pretty good chance of hearing your favourite is certainly the case for me when 1983's catchy as hell Ragin' Eyes and 1979's Cruel to be Kind get an airing.
After Nick plays his encore (of course he played Peace, Love and Understanding) it's time to head round to the Salutation Hotel for some rocking country from Doug Seegers. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with Seeger's work but that is definitely going to change. There is a real breadth and depth to his songwriting and it isn't restrained by any one genre. We get an amazing Texas swing on Buddy Milleresque My Baby Lost Her Way Home, Gospel on Will You Take The Hands of Jesus and a more rocking vibe on I Knew Her Before The Crash.
However, it is when Doug and his amazing band switch gears into Rockabilly that the Salutations dance floor comes into play. Original song Road Rage and a cover of Shake, Rattle and Roll with a rabid drum solo have everyone up and dancing.
Check back tomorrow for more of the best from last years fest!
Festival goers can get a 25% discount when buying five shows or more and tickets are selling fast so you don’t want to miss out!
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Southern Fried Festival website, call the Horsecross Box Office on 01738 621031, or follow the festival’s social media channels below.
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