Jess Kemp - Buckle & Boots 2021 - Main Stage
The opening slots on both Saturday & Sunday at Buckle & Boots are never necessarily the best attended performances, a combination of alcohol and lack of sleep tends to dampen the early enthusiasm and yet in many years it has yielded musical gold and this year would prove no different.
Jess Kemp in no way would describe herself particularly as an Americana artist but strip away the indie persona and essentially her songs are guitar and vocal and if that is not Americana then what is? It was this underlying element that the organisers had identified and why she was here today.
She has in fact played this stage before at the Blackthorn festival, so already had the experience under her belt however this was to be playing against an unfamiliar crowd, that she immediately won over by playing a cover of "Whiskey In the Jar" which established her strident guitar playing style. Citing Brothers Osborne as an influence on her next song "Killer Shoes" was another smart move that warmed her to the ever growing audience as they were then forced to listen and see if they could detect those influences, whether it be the stomp box or the pounding her acoustic guitar was to take.
Another one of her previous singles "We Were Falling" released in Lockdown followed, with a soaring chorus that showed another facet of her performing style. Another nod to Jess's surroundings came with a cover of "Jolene" which in truth was a fairly straight cover and therefore strangely the least interesting of her vibrant set although it received a rousing response from the assembled throng.
There was a great back story attached to the song "Camden" about having her song rejected from a songwriting competition as a 15 year old. Her delivery on this one at times almost channelled one of Camden's more famous recent occupants - Ms Winehouse.
One final appeal to the country crowd came in the shape of Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" although in truth there was no need to as we were quite satisfied with her original material as was to be proved by her uptempo closer "Vondelpark" which was far more interesting, with her best vocals of the set, fired at a rapid pace and accompanied by some power guitar playing - closing out in some style.
If Jess learnt anything over the weekend then surely it was that she could go toe to toe and comfortably survive in an Americana setting. Her musical leanings may lie elsewhere the rest of the time but an occasional visit to perform at an Americana songwriting evening to play her original material might just widen her audience up a little more and on the evidence of this showing she has all the required attributes, in her honest songwriting style to succeed.