Midwinterfest 2019 - Alan West, Steve Black Adam Sweet - The Friday Session
Midwinterfest as ever remains the first major festival of the year, and as ever it will almost certainly live up to its motto “It’s all about the music”. Equally as ever, large numbers of people book in advance, not necessarily knowing who will appear but safe in the knowledge that they will have a weekend of superb diverse entertainment. They will be wined, dined and royally entertained.
Our hosts also remain the same Alan West, with his deep voice, a master singer and interpreter of songs, perfectly foiled by Steve Black songwriter extraordinaire, silver haired and silver tongued when it comes to extracting a glass of something soothing from the audience or bar staff. The third member of the team Adam Sweet provides guitar and backing vocals and as we shall find later is a supreme guitarist and performer in his own right. They will be ever present across the weekend and a key ingredient in what keeps customers returning for more.
The Warwick Ballroom as it suggests is a rectangular room with wooden floors, that each year has to accommodate just a few more extra tables as word of mouth about how good this festival is spreads. The audience remain respectful and appreciative taking a real joy in the musical fare presented to them.The tradition of the festival is that the hosts take the opening set, each on a stool. Alan centre stage with a stomp pedal, to his left Steve bedecked in a hat with long grey hair and a twinkle in his eye and a pint in his microphone stand, while to his right Adam with a mop of curly hair.
The trio open acoustically with “What Love Is”, with Steve and Alan combining vocally to make a beautifully opening received with great applause. In an unusual addition after 4 years of working on the sound desk, Mick Harding joined in on drums turning the team into a quartet. His first duties providing percussion on the blues of “Chicago” with Steve taking lead vocal and Adam providing guitar flourishes. The next song written by Kenny Johnson is something a little different, “Down On the Bayou” has had its lyrics altered to suit Alan, the Southern blues and harmonies sat exceptionally well on the English Riviera. Once again Adam contributed lovely guitar parts that really combined with some lovely harmonies from Alan and Steve.
“You’re On Your Own” the award winning single was introduced with an anecdote that led back to “Browns” the bar with the best burgers mentioned in the song, and was enthusiastically received. Those that had journeyed via the A303 were paid tribute to in Steve’s tale of the perils of journeying on Britain’s roads “Driving”, though anecdotally today’s commuters had very little issue whether travelling from near or far. The next song was the first time we’d heard Alan sing “Diane”, an old Ed Bruce song, a truly wonderful performance. Steve took the next song, one of his 2017 crop memorably debuted at a previous Songwriters Round, the Alaskan song “Mana Atsuni”.
There next was a nod to previous Midwinterfest guest Jim Almond, with a version of “Song To a Neophyte", an outstanding song performed with true respect. The trio are renowned for their annual trip to the Netherlands and the next song “Highway Of My Heart” a classic country song is allegedly their most popular euro song! Barely had that song finished then Alan had started the guitar intro into “Hillbilly Woodbines” with a sizeable part of the audience joining in on the backing vocals. The final song of the introductory set was the upbeat “Tequila” and Midwinterfest was well and truly opened.