The second thing I asked when was offered the chance to do the live music reviews for Small City Big Personality was "can I review the Southern Fried Festival?". It is something my friends and I look forward to every year and in the past I have enjoyed many great shows there. A Couple of years ago I saw the mighty Steve Earle and the upcoming Sturgill Simpson share a bill which was a definite highlight and going even further back I was lucky enough to see Seasick Steve at the height of his fame. The first question I asked, by the way, was "do I get paid?" You have to get your priorities right
This year there was a lot of artists I was looking forward to, not least the legendary Nick Lowe who I checked out after film reviewer Mark Kermode sung his praises week after week on his BBC film podcast. However, first I was in for some old-time Rock n' Roll with an all-star tribute to the legendary Chuck Berry. Muddy Waters famously sung "well the blues got pregnant and they named the baby rock & roll". If you stretch the anology even further you could make a strong argument that Chuck Berry was the midwife.
Heading up this amazing line-up tonight was famous Welsh singer songwriter and guitar hero Andy Fairweather low who with his first band 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's in the spotlight tonight and we were 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 Hunters energy and playing on Brown Eyed Handsome Man.
He definately 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 artists 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 mans 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 not mention the awesome Cyndi Cain and her rendition of 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 and then all the hardcore Americana fans head round to the Salutation Hotel for round two... more about that in a future Small City review. Stay tuned folks!