It’s Monday morning and, well, I’ve been C2C’d. 3 days of Country Music by the Clyde and a quite a few conversations later I feel a little reflection is probably appropriate. Firstly I have to say that the festival itself was populated by a lovely group of people who genuinely came to enjoy themselves. Polite but passionate and – to my pleasant surprise – remarkably young they made the festival a lovely experience for me. Thanks to all the people who came up to me and told me they listened to the AC and to the staff and stewards at the event who all made the weekend very easy to be around.
I’m afraid I never managed to find my way to the King Tuts stage but I hear there were good things to be enjoyed there and, talking to the folk from DF who promoted the whole weekend, I know there are thoughts on how to expand the alternative stages at next year’s event. I have been to one or two ‘country’ shows in Scotland and there can be a sense that the audience are slightly more interested in the past than the future and that country music is part of a general nostalgic rush. Not so at this event. The young line up and the young audience ensured that we were witnessing a music that has changed and is changing. Not everyone will like the direction it seems to be taking but no one can deny that they are witnessing a high point of country’s pop music side and that within that there are some artists and writers able to cross it over to the mainstream.
Sam Hunt set the tone for all of that on Friday. It was a set which highlighted what we have always known; there is a circle of music which unites black and white roots music. Both stem from the same root and they often steal liberally from each other. Little Big Town show much of that too though their glorious use of harmony also highlights another great Country tradition. Starting a show with an acapella rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is never going to get you off on a bad foot. Later that evening Carrie Underwood would bring the house down and confirm all I have just said about the roots of music with her own tribute to Dolly and Whitney Houston with her inch perfect cover of ‘I Will Always Love You.’
If Friday had emphasised the pop then Saturday seemed to bring a slightly less pre programmed emphasis to the proceedings. There were no tapes running in the background for a wonderful set by Andrew Combs and Chris Stapleton did his best to make the Armadillo feel like a smoky New Orleans blues club. Kacey Musgraves‘ band were the first to scatter a little bit of Nashvegas but the night and perhaps the weekend seemed to me to belong to Eric Church. When someone has had the kind of success enjoyed by Eric one has to imagine there is something to their live show. There is. It’s great playing and singing and utter charisma. Eric Church knows who he is – ‘how ’bout you?’
Over the course of the weekend we caught up with Eric, Andrew Combs, Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood in the foyer at BBC Scotland. We broadcast these conversations in two special shows over the weekend and we are repeating them over the next two Tuesday nights so you can catch up.
The last night brought some traditional bar room country from Dwight Yoakam, a delightful set from Ashley Monroe, everything but the kitchen sink from Thomas Rhett and a great closing show from Miranda Lambert.
Thanks to our team in the music department in BBC Scotland for the huge effort they put in to make this event happen and especially to my great friend Richard Murdoch who was assembling the radio shows very close to broadcast time…which was both exhilarating and slightly scary. Do join us over the next two Tuesday nights to catch up with he best of the festival. See you on the other side…