No festival is complete with a Songwriters Round and this one was to prove to be a little gem with three performers who would go on to make notable contributions to the day later with their respective bands. Somewhat undersold even on The Long Road App, only those with an inquisitive mind would have noted what an opportunity this was affording.
Of the three artistes, Sarah Darling was the better known to UK audiences, having played here many times and having almost been adopted as an honourary Brit! Whitney Rose came in a very short skirt though she was quick to reveal that her modesty was going to be protected by a pair of shorts, while Sunny Sweeney hot from a guest appearance with Marty Stuart the day before was sporting a pair of shades.
Round 1 opened with Sarah Darling dedicating "Pretender" to every narcissist she'd ever come across. Of the three artists, Sarah has perhaps the more traditional pop country voice, and "Pretender" came with an effortlessly easy sounding chorus that was such a delight with the line "You said we would last forever". Whitney admitted that she was not a great guitarist and that for her it was mainly a writing tool but had she not admitted that i'm not too sure many would have complained. Her opening song "You're Gonna Get Lonely" showed her to have more of a country twang to her voice and a sharp lyrical edge.
"Some folks don't need anyone in life to get them through
But i know that ain't you!"
It met with a resounding "Yeah girl" from Sunny Sweeney as she finished.
Round 1 closed with Sunny Sweeney electing to stand for fear of slifding off her stool, she had perhaps the most traditional Country voice of the three perfomers and with two divorces and divorce albums behind her, plenty ot repertoire to fall back on "Staying's Worse Than Leaving" was a classic piece of country.
Sarah had a raft of new tunes that she would unveil over the weekend in both band and and solo format and much as we'd like to have heard "Halley's Comet", it has to be said each and every one was a corker of a tune. Written with Emily Shackleton, "Red Mustang" came full of beautifully descriptive lyrics, so much so that the video will surely almost direct itself! For a summer song it strangely won't be with us until the end of the year - this is undoubtedly going to be a Christmas present to us all. It would later be sung even more compellingly with her band but this solo format was an excellent taster. Whitney revealed the bad luck in releasing an album just as the pandemic began and gave a rare solo outing of "In a Rut" normally performed as an all out rocker with her band. Possibly the most affecting song of the set was Sunny Sweeney's "Poet's Prayer" which came with a humourous back story about her Grandad being a southern baptist preacher but ended on a poignant note that each time she hadn't played it on stage there had been a car crash. It came with some beautiful insights of being a performe,r in that rarely do you get to see your friends if one or the other of you is touring.
The final full round confirmed Sarah's UK bonafides with "(I Hope Heaven Has A) Primrose Hill", dedicated to the rather beautiful part of North London beloved by film makers everywhere. This was to confirm that Sarah is in a rich writing vein at the moment amassing a strong collection of songs. Topped off with her exquisite vocals, this was to be a delight. This was a Songwriters Round where you dare not blink for missing something, as each player reeled off quality song after quality song. Whitney's final contribution was her "Mad as F***" song - "Be A Better Man" which came with some strident guitar playing and Whitney really shouting out and emphasising the title - another great song that will have us scouring her back catalogue for more gems.
The final song of Round Three fell to Sunny Sweeney who sang "Backhanded Compliment" as a public service, and achieved the unique feat of making a song both informative and laugh out loud funny. Definitely one to check out with a list of things that you should never say! Complete with a hilarious introduction this was a great way to close the main proceedings.
There was a chance for an impromptu fourth round of sorts with Sunny and Whitney sharing duties on "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels", this was to prive a mere soupcon of the entertainment that these ladies would provide in their individual sets on their respective stages but it made for a great way to start a Sunday