Big Names in the Making at Maverick Festival 2014

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Rosanne Cash photo by Robin Little/Redferns
Photo: Robin Little/Redferns

We’re just back from deepest Suffolk, in the East of England, where we spent three fabulous days at the coolest Festival of the summer – Maverick. It’s where all things Americana come together and this was the 7th Maverick Festival and everyone we talked to said it was the best; it was certainly the biggest, both in terms of the number of artists on the bill and the crowds.

Friday night has traditionally been a slow burn for the festival but this year it got underway in beautiful weather with a lot of people getting into the spirit of the 4th of July weekend early. uDiscover got things underway in the Moonshine Bar at 5pm with a playback on vinyl of Rosanne Cash’s latest album, The River and The Thread – those that heard it agreed with us when we said we think it is a Grammy winner (watch this space).

Other highlights on Friday were The American Troubadours who played the Barn stage, as did Philip Henry and Hannah Martin; Philip’s Dobro playing is as good as we’ve seen from a homegrown British artist. We also liked Sam Lewis’s Southern homespun stories in song. The closer on the barn stage was Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and big sounding they are for a three-piece. Their brand of country electric blues was the perfect thing to close out the Friday night on this stage.

The Peacock Café stage opened with the legendary Hank Wangford, but our favourite of the evening was House of Hats. From Brighton, this four-piece has some fine harmony vocals and most importantly great songs. Another one to watch…

It rained through the night on Saturday but cleared up in time for the opening act on the main stage – named Sweet Home Alabama, thanks to some sponsorship by the Alabama Tourist Board. First up was the intriguingly named Canyon Ryde from North Devon. This three-piece features the exquisite songs of Phil Lively-Masters. Imagine you’ve been stranded on a California hill farm circa 1969 and you get the vibe. Their music is just so damned catchy and the fabulous guitar playing of Arthur Wharf and bongos and vocals of Mat Love were just the perfect way to start the day.

Other highlights on the Sweet Home Alabama outdoor stage were Canadian band Massy Ferguson, the Dreaming Spires and the closing act, Danny & the Champions of the World. Down in the Moonshine bar, Jacob Navarro impressed everyone with his guitar playing and thoughtful songs. Later in the adjoining bar, the Henry Brothers were a big hit. Their songs about death…and death…and death, went over brilliantly, as did their great stage patter.

During the day on the Barn stage, the highlight for us was Marty O’Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra. Their country blues-influenced songs are excellent and well worth seeking out. Kicking off the evening sets was the brilliant Dayna Kurtz, big-voiced, strong songs and with a big presence; she was accompanied by the ex Continental Drifters guitarist Robert Maché whose guitar playing was a delight.

Holly Williams was, as we all expected, fantastic. She tells stories in her songs with a confidence that only heritage can give you. But she’s very much her own person and the big Maverick Festival crowd loved her. Mary Gauthier was another who has a big following and her songs were top notch, as was her performance.

Saturday night in the Barn closed out with Larkin Poe; sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell who are descendants of Edgar Alan Poe – get it? Anyway, they for us were the highlight of the entire festival. These two guitar-toting girls (along with an excellent drummer and bass player) are huge stars in the making – Megan plays brilliant slide and Rebecca plays guitar and mandolin. Imagine if the Allman Brothers Band had little sisters. They say the South will rise again – we think it just has. Mark our words…

On the Sunday morning uDiscover did a playback of The Band’s Music from Big Pink – the album that we think began the whole damn thing we call Americana. It’s perfect Sunday morning music and it was the perfect way to start another half day of great music that mostly featured second sets from bands that had already played, a very pleasing Maverick Festival quirk. Marty O’Reilly was back as were the excellent Rainbow Girls who had wowed the crowd the previous afternoon on the outdoor stage.

Keep your eyes open for all of the bands we mention and go see them if you can. Check out our playlist to which we’ve added tracks by most of those we’ve featured. Next year make sure you don’t miss the Maverick Festival, it’s a must.

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