Review by Nutty Norah
The gathering of Country Music fans at the Savoy Hotel in Blackpool every December was originally Kenny Johnson's Birthday Bash (December 11th) so there was some sadness this year with the loss of Kenny earlier in the year. Nicky James organised the event and it was good to see Kenny's widow, Chris, at the event and that must have been very difficult for her - a very brave lady.
That weekend must have been the worst weather-wise too! Storm Desmond lashed the Savoy Hotel to within an inch of its life! Rain leaked through many of the windows causing puddles in the ballroom, and on stage, and in the rooms where beds were soaked. Darren Busby arrived very late on Saturday evening to find that the ceiling had collapsed in his room! A good thing that there were other rooms available! Despite all the rotten weather, we all had a great weekend, good food, good company and excellent music.
The Friday evening's entertainment started off with DJ Barry Gannon playing some good Country Music while we were finishing off our meals and getting ready to enjoy the show. Nicky James kicked off the show with a tribute to Kenny Johnson including "Walk Through This World With Me". Next on was 17 year old Jacob Carter, what a talent he has! Very confident, even when his backing tracks failed, and he proved he could play guitar and sing with the best of them with an acoustic version of "Silent Night". He told me that when he finishes college he is going full time into music and I have no doubt that he will be a great success, much like his brother Nathan!
Desert Wind took to the stage next with their usual high standard of musicianship and professionalism, with Jim, the bass player, taking many of the vocals instead of Pete, and Andy playing very fast numbers on the mandolin! They are all excellent singers and players - do go and see them if you get the chance! Headlining were The Bogtrotters who certainly had everyone up dancing and enjoying their style of music, again some super musicians, and the lady fiddle player was outstanding, a very rousing end to a great evening, that included "Darlin'" which was a big hit for Tim Flaherty and Poacher.
Saturday afternoon was the "Singer/Songwriter Showcase" with Alan West and Steve Black. Most of the songs featured were written by Steve and tell magical stories, and were described by compere Bernie Birch as "poetry set to music" and that is a very apt description. On a lighter note, it didn't take much to persuade Steve to sing us some of his "alternate" Christmas songs and the whole place was filled with hysterical laughter!
The evening show started off with Tony Ainscoe who has a great voice and it was a pity he had to use backing tracks. Next on was Louise Rogan, again with backing tracks, but she put on a very lively performance and went down well with the audience. Sadly John Permenter, who was booked to headline the Saturday show, could not be there as he was unable to leave his wife Sarah who is very seriously ill. John's band "Texas Hold 'em" were there and included Jon J Paul and Derek Thurlby, and they have also been known as John Taylor's Band and "C'est La Vie". Whatever they call themselves, they are one of the very finest bands in the land and on this occasion they were Nicky James's band "State of the Heart"! Nicky stepped in to fill in for John Permenter, and there was no reason he couldn't have been the headlining act, but that honour went to "Texas Gun" the family trio from Ayrshire. As usual they were immaculate in their white jackets and provided excellent entertainment - George Senior was in fine form with his jokes! George Junior has an amazing voice and all three are super singers and harmonise so well.
The Saturday Night show finished around 12:30am and there were chip butties for everyone before we all moved into the lounge for the now traditional jam session, lead of course by Nicky James and Jon J Paul. Bernie Birch sang a few songs and Alan West and Steve Black also entertained and again "Blackie" sang his Christmas songs with much audience participation! When Darren Busby arrived he was persuaded to sing for us too and Nicky brought the session to an end at around 3:00am!
Some didn't make it to breakfast on the Sunday morning! Darren Busby entertained between 11:00am and 12:30pm and did a duet with his Dad much to the delight of all in attendance.
Nicky James came on stage and was joined by Darren and Bernie for a few farewell songs to wrap up the weekend's entertainment. Everyone enjoyed Sunday Lunch before booking their places for next year's Country Music weekend which will be on December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 2016, artists already booked are Nicky James and State of the Heart, Ray Peters Band, Hayley Sisters, Blue Horizon, Jacob Carter, Kezia Gill, Jordan Mogey, and for Saturday afternoon, Alan West and Steve Black. The cost for the weekend is £149.00 per person, full details from Nicky James on 0161 6288197 or N.J.M. Music Events, 37 Rosebay Close, Royton, OLDHAM, OL2 6JW. Maybe I'll see you there next year!