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Ward Thomas, Sarah Darling, Claydon Connor Tilly Cripwell - Smoked & Uncut Festival

Here at TeamW21 we like to think we know how to run a festival and so it is always interesting to go to visit somewhere else and see how they do it. Smoked and Uncut was very much a combination of food and music, with the likes of Angela Hartnett providing the food while a somewhat eclectic bill provided the music. The Main Stage looked out on to a wide open field where seating was provided either by hay bales or chairs specially brought along for the occasion while at the back of the arena a small stage just about under cover provided a setting for acoustic acts. There was a wide selection of food, wine and spirits, the only thing they could not count upon was the weather which in true British summer style ranged from slightly sunny to biblically torrential where the slightly sunny could be counted in minutes and the various downpours seemed to last hours.

Fortunately, due to the prevailing weather, the main acts we were initially here to witness were on in the acoustic tent or the George Smith Hideaway Lounge as it was officially listed. Now this was the only area where the festival let itself down. The acoustic area which provided about 90% coverage for those sheltering from the rain was housed in the same area as one of the bars leading to excessive noise for the performers to contend with.

First up into this bear pit of an atmosphere was Tilly Cripwell, at the tender age of 15, she stood in the wings while the main stage completed, looking a little ashen and seemed to be visibly running through what she going to be playing. I’ve no idea what type of genre Tilly aspires to work under but seeing as we cover all emerging talent let’s give her some recognition. There were three parts to her set, her own songs, some covers and a monster mashup of songs from the last 30 years.

The covers Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and rather heartwarmingly for her parents no doubt, Jermaine Stewarts “We Don’t Have To” were both dispatched pretty well with some slight nerves but nothing that stopped her getting a rousing set of applause after each. The monster mashup with lyrics taped to 2 mic stands took in all sorts of songs including “Imagine” and probably ran a minute or so too long, but that would be nit picking. The real gems were her own songs, “Two” which came with a slightly quirky chorus, and “Build It Up” were far better than a 15 year old should be writing. They were not pastiches of existing songs and were far more interesting than her covers. She finished the set with a broad grin and no wonder this was not an easy crowd to play in front of. Keep on writing and playing would be my advice and we’ll check in again in a few years.

Claydon Connor had made the relatively short journey from the Isle Of Wight to play in the acoustic tent and made the most of a rowdy crowd. Opening with “Which Road” from his new EP which is in the can and awaiting release. It was to be an up tempo set as this was not the time for delicate ballads, “The Sweetest Thing” with its’ Springsteenish feel was also well received. To give an idea of how the weather had changed for the worse, Claydon was now blowing on his hands to keep them warm, before moving on to “It’s A Beautiful Life” which was suitably upbeat and instantly catchy boding well for the new EP. Another new song and one to keep the hands warm was “Hello Heartbreak Blues”. In an effort to squeeze in as much as possible he closed with another new song too late to go on the new EP called “Time Is Everything”, it’s a truly captivating tune and the lyrics about how things can suddenly hit you out of the blue will strike a chord with anyone who hears it. It certainly caused enough of the audience to come forward and invest in Claydon’s LP “Under The Big Sky” and hopefully they’ll come back for the EP as and when it is released.

The next artist on our radar we seem to have covered in various formats, in the round, with a band however this time it was to be with a multi talented guitarist come piano playing musician with a line in backing vocals as well, Ashley Cutler. Sarah Darling was the one artist who sucked people into the tent who were not just sheltering from the storm and in fact so crowded did it become that many had to settle for viewing from outside. Opening with “Starry Eyes” in a quite stunning white lace dress she even managed the impossible for a few moments by making the sun shine.

The set included many of our favourite tunes from recent months, “More Issues Than Vogue” continues to win over anyone who hears it, “Where Cowboys Ride” seems ever more detailed with each listen as it paints its picture of Wyoming. The closing trio of songs “Montmartre”, “Halley’s Comet” complete with some additional Ashley flourishes on piano, and “Stargazer” closed out yet another successful performance in what has been a spectacular summer of shows from Sarah.

After Sarah Darling it was time to rush to the main stage to brave the elements and watch headliners Ward Thomas, now coming to the end of the promotion of “Cartwheels” with a host of festival appearances before hitting the road for a short prestigious UK tour supporting Miranda Lambert. The set in essence was a distilled version of the recent UK tour, with notable highlights being “Lose Me”, “Carry You Home” as well as the new songs “Breath In” and “I Believe In You”. Other notable events were the appearance of a new keyboard player, George Brown Griffiths, who was covering for a vacationing Giles who came out very favourably in the mix and put in a great performance, and Dan Gordon’s enthusiastic guitar playing that led to him accidentally pulling his guitar lead out. Catherine and Lizzie as ever were on fine form at times unable to hold back their admiration of the crowd still singing and dancing despite the prevailing conditions.

There's no doubt that the weather put something of a dampener on proceedings but the Smoked and Uncut festival seemed to be a friendly, well run festival, that we'd highly recommend.

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