• Chris Farlie

Midwinterfest 2020 Preview

With the annual Festival curtain raiser on the near horizon in the shape of Midwinterfest 2020 - it's time for a quick preview of the artistes appearing and offer a little taster of what we might be in store for.

It is a given that our hosts Alan West & Steve Black will come armed with a clutch of newly penned tunes and a selection of well chosen covers, at a recent show Alan seemed to be very much in a Nanci Griffith state of mind, if we are lucky we might get to see his take on St Olavs Gate or Gulf State Highway along with the inevitable song inspired by the great lady "You're On Your Own".

Also in tow providing additional support on guitar and almost certainly at some point in his own solo slot will be Adam Sweet.

His last acoustic EP was a thing of sheer beauty and with a new release penciled in for 2020 expect to hear a preview of some of those new songs. #TEAMw21 got to hear a few at a recent show in Kingston and they sounded absolutely fabulous - The new material is unlikely to be available for purchase but use this opportunity to get an early glimpse of what is to come.

Another highlight is always Adam's extended 6 minute version of Steve's "You Think Your Lonely".

Maisie & The Thompsons are going to be a new name to many but at least one the band will be familiar to seasoned Midwinterfest attendees, as behind the drum kit sits Sound desk supremo and occasional percussionist for Alan & Steve, Mick Harding. With a little searching you can find their "Written From The Start" EP which indicates we could be in for a little treat if you like singer songwriter, piano led material in the vein of Jackson Browne, "Out Of Hand" and "Everybody Thinks" which provides the EP title, certainly fall into that category though with a distinctly English delivery style. Of the other tracks "Cuts Like A Knife" is a more guitar led track with a catchy riff while the final track "World Folding In" is an absorbing song that sits somewhere in the between the two and sets things up nicely for their forthcoming performance.

The last time The Haley Sisters played Midwinterfest they somewhat stole the evening with their mix of covers and home grown material, there was possibly only one minor quibble that #TEAMw21 and esteemed Country music critic Alan Cackett had of their set and that was that it did not include enough of their excellent home grown material. Last time round they were playing material from their excellent "Always By My Side" record and since then they've released another collection "Timeless" which includes some unusual covers not least their take on Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" which is transformed into something of a Nashville classic while their version of "To Know Him" seems perfectly set for a Torquay singalong.

It is a repeat visit for Jefferson Ross who last time only put one foot wrong during his entire stay and that was having a lack of merchandise with him - such was the quality and power of his material that he could probably have funded his European trip off of the proceeds such was the clamour for physical media.

Jefferson of course is the source for many songs that we'll hear over the weekend from Alan and Steve. His 2008 album "Azalea" forinstance provided the original versions of "Hornet Hawkins" and "The Prophet Elijah". which have both provided memorable moments over the years. His "In The Round" session last time out was one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

Ags Connolly doesn't really need any introduction having already made a couple of Midwinterfest appearances - some of the songs he previewed last time out like "Lonely Nights in Austin" are on his latest studio album "Wrong Again" Expect some wry observational humour and possibly bring a handkerchief as this man may well break your heart but make sure you do not leave without a copy of his latest opus.

For JP & The Wise Guys no more is required than to remind everyone of the #TEAMw21 review of their last appearance - "Led by the unmistakable larger than life in all ways Neil Flowers and backed by the Wise Guys on drums, electric guitar, double bass and saxophone - they provided an afternoon treat.

These guys had not played together for 18 years which is why their Internet footprint is almost non existent! The thing that made this set most enjoyable was that these may have been old rock ‘n’ roll songs but they were not the usual run of the mill suspects, so in essence it was like hearing them for the first time, and hearing the start of rock 'n' roll!

If Thomm Jutz seems an unfamiliar name then a quick peruse of his cv should be enough to have your jaw dropping - forinstance he's played guitar for Nanci Griffith, Kim Richey & Mary Gauthier, and his songs have been cut by the likes of Nanci Griffith, John Prine & Marty Stuart. With a new album due in late March, "To Live In Two Worlds Vol 1" already yielding great songs such as "Blind Alfred Reed" his appearance should be something special.

With the #TEAMw21 providing the regular top quality service and coverage you'd expect -and the promise of bacon rolls at 02:00 Sunday morning what else is there to say but bring it on!!!!

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