• Chris Farlie

Midwinterfest 2020 Day 2: Alan West, Steve Black, Adam Sweet & Mick Harding

The evening session on Day 2 saw a return to normal, with Alan and Steve returning to their more familiar commencing the evening slot, which they opened with their rocking version of "Down On The Bayou", with Mick's backbeat and Adam's electric guitar solo giving a real rock feel to it, curiously all 3 vocalists chose to sing the chorus with closed eyes. From the frantic high tempo start to proceedings, the team sailed into calmer waters with "St Olav's Gate", a Tom Russell song, synonymous with Nanci Griffiith who seems to have been an ethereal presence across the whole weekend. This version featured more sympathetic guitar work from Adam, and additional vocals from Steve on the chorus.

Steve Black has had a busy year songwriting and "I Won't Betray My Soul" is the first of his recent batch of songs that we'd yet to hear, Impressive on first hearing, with Alan's stomp box adding to Micks percussion to give the song some real volume. Keeping the Nanci Griffith vibe going, was Alan with a delightful version of "Gulf Coast Highway", from "Little Love Affairs" with Adam throwing in a superb guitar solo.

A song that often makes an appearance at Midwinterfest is Steve's recounting of his meeting with an Innuit lady, first previewed at one of the previous Song Writers Rounds “Mana Atunee" remains a great piece of writing, The final number in this opening section was Ed Bruce's "Diane" which received a murmur or appreciation from the moment the opening lines were recognized and which turned into something of a singalong at the chorus.

It was then time for Adam Sweet to have his own slot, within which he chose to preview songs from his forthcoming release. The first "You and Me" was impressively fast paced. The new material has mainly been written with Steve and the next song "Like It Or Not" was a slower affair with an almost soulful feel, built around a wonderfully repetitive riff. From there it was on to "Keep Your Down When There's Trouble" which had something of an ominous opening feel to it, a bluesy tinged song that gave Adam a chance to really have a go at powering out some vocals while playing some Chris Stapleton like guitar lines. Finishing his slot with the first written of the newly created batch of songs, with "Working On It" which had a touch of slide guitar meets Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" about it and saw Steve Black return to the stage mid song to play on one of his co creations, which even included a fake ending - and saw Adam flash a cheeky grin when on the second time round it really did end.

The full quartet returned to the stage for the final part of the set starting with "Jacob", the tale of the mysterious coal carving miner, like much of the material this weekend given an extra lease of life by the addition of percussion and extra volume perhaps at the cost of the spine tingling reveal in the song but nonetheless it was something that constantly held the viewers attention. With Ags Connolly safely out of the building, it meant that Alan could perform his own take on the song "Get Out Of My Mind", each are able to extract their own slightly different particular pathos from the song,

Onwards to "All Things For a Reason" which has simply never sounded better, Mick's percussion, Adam's guitar and Alan's vocals, all went to make this a truly superb version. Closing their set was another song from Steve Blacks 2019 collection, "The Night The Sky Started Singing" which was about seeing the Northern Lights from a hot tub. It may sound a joke and even sees Steve's clothes freeze solid but builds into an uptempo affair with Alan joining in on the chorus to give it that extra bit of power.

Two sets in and it is remarkable to note both the quality and quantity of material that they have at their disposal.

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