Review: The Kelso Country and Western Festival - May 2017

Review by Nutty Norah

This is the tenth year of the Kelso Country and Western Festival which happens twice a year in May and October.  Not only is there always some great Country Music on offer, the Western side is catered for with merchandise available from several outlets.  Many of the festival goers choose to dress in Western style and that is not cheap, but a clothes store is on site with a wide range of Western Clothing for both men and women.  The ladies in Western Dress have afternoon tea parties on Saturday and Sunday, while the men-folk practise their fast draw skills in a separate hall.

Inside the main hall is the Speedwell Healing tent, where you can get a massage after all that Line Dancing! There is always a raffle with about ten prizes per day, plus the draw for the winning programme number and a prize for the best decorated table.  Every morning there is Line Dance tuition and throughout the weekend a Country Music Disco with Phil and Angie; also there is the Fast Draw Competition and in the afternoons the Mexican, Native American and American Trilogies also take place and are highlights of the weekend.

As always the Kelso C&W Festival is organised by Florence Davis who works so hard to make these events a success, she also has a small army of helpers, willing to do whatever it takes to keep everyone happy.  Zenne was compere for the whole of the weekend as well as doing a couple of spots on stage on Saturday afternoon and she was holding the whole Festival together and making sure everything ran smoothly.

The Festival started at 12 Noon on Friday, May 12th, with the Showcase Artist Katee Cross.  As I wasn't there to see her, Brian Stanley told me that he thought she was an excellent performer, slightly on the folksy side, but nevertheless, with just an acoustic guitar and a fine voice, she gave a good account of herself.

Ian James

In the afternoon, doing two spots each, Ian James and the Angie King Duo got the Festival underway. Ian James is a great entertainer, interacting with the audience and singing some great songs, he has a lovely strong voice.  The Angie King duo, consisting of Angie and steel guitarist Davy Adams entertained with some favourite Country songs, which pleased listeners and line dancers alike. 
Angie King

First on the evening show was Brushwood, a well known duo, fine musicians and singers. 

Followed by The Full Nelson - Willie Nelson Tribute Band who were as good as ever, and y'know - I love a bit of Willie in the evening!  Gary sounds very much like Willie, and the band are excellent in their own right.  Ian James swapped his guitar for a pair of drumsticks, as drummer with the band, and sang the Waylon Jennings and Ray Charles  duets with Gary. 
Full Nelson

Headlining were The Ridge Riders, fronted by vocalist Dixon J Scott who has a super voice, but maybe more suited to cabaret than country, but they had the place jumping and dancing and everyone enjoyed the Ridge Riders.
Ridge Riders

Saturday started off with another Showcase Artist in the shape of the four-piece band Red Rock Highway who had travelled from Aberdeen to be on the show, normally a five-piece, their keyboard player was too ill to travel.  A great performance from the band with lead singer and drummer Willie "Billybob" Knight starting off at a very fast pace similar in style to the Showbands.  Very much more music and less chat!  Billybob told me later that he had been approached by many club organisers and he was optimistic that several bookings would be confirmed, so they were pleased with the reaction of the audience and felt that it had been well worth doing the Showcase.
Red Rock Highway

Zenne was next on stage for her first spot, as always top quality and especially on the acoustic "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain".  Many thanks to Zenne for giving me and UKCountr a mention and thanking us for covering the Festival with live updates throughout the weekend - nice applause from the audience. 

Next came a favourite duo, Little Rock - Chris and Steve, always guaranteed quality and an outstanding version of "Seminole Wind" with amazing guitar work from Steve Place.  Steve also sang a couple of Roy Orbison songs, and he still sounds just like the "Big O" even without the wig and shades!
Little Rock

On Zenne's second spot she invited Red Canyon to join her on stage and they did a duet on "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain".  It didn't matter that Zenne had done it solo in the first spot, Red Canyon sounded so much like Willie Nelson, it was completely different. Following Zenne's set it was the Mexican Trilogy which featured the traditional "dance of the flags."  
Zenne and Red Canyon

After Little Rock's second spot, Red Canyon did an impromptu half an hour on stage and really wowed the audience with his guitar skills and unique voice.  He is in the process of recording a CD and had a preview track of "Grey Wolf," which Angie played on the disco, it is so atmospheric and spellbinding - I have to get a copy of it!

The evening show opened with Jake Carter, who I first saw at Blackpool a couple of years ago when he did his first public performance, aged 18. He has come on in leaps and bounds since then - very professional and confident, I'm sure he will be giving his brother Nathan some competition in the future! It was certainly Country with some Irish flavour to it.  
Jake Carter

Next on were New England, a four piece band who played Kelso last year, and it's no surprise that they were asked back, a very enjoyable set from them. 
New England

Headlining were the Danny Landon Band - a five-piece, playing excellent music and rounding off the night in fine style with everyone dancing and asking for more.  It was great that there were three bands playing today, as well as the duos and solos, a good mixture of music.  
Danny Landon Band

Sunday afternoon saw two spots each from Martin Jaye and Kentucky Rain.  Martin Jaye had travelled from Canterbury in Kent, but was doing a several gigs in the area.  He was first on and he certainly has a super voice and a very easy style, look out for him if he is in your area, well worth making the effort to go and see him. 
Martin Jaye

Kentucky Rain are a popular and well known duo and they certainly didn't disappoint on this occasion, playing a mixture of songs including some for the Line Dancers.  The Native American Trilogy took place after Martin Jaye's second spot and, as always Chief Eight Bears of the Kiowa conducted the ceremony, before Kentucky Rain closed the afternoon show. 
Kentucky Rain

Sunday night was not as billed as two of the bands were unable to appear due to unforeseen circumstances, however stepping into the breach at very short notice was the ever popular Texas Gun.  When Zenne announced the change in the advertised line up, there was a groan from the audience, but as soon as she mentioned Texas Gun, there was a huge cheer, proving how very popular they are.  Kickin' Country started the evening off with their first spot, getting the show underway and were very well received by the audience.  Next came the American Trilogy, which is always spectacular, no matter how many times you witness it. After a short break Texas Gun did their first spot, with some Line Dances and some slower songs - saving the fast stuff for later!
Texas Gun

The raffle and programme draw came next and the winners of the Best Decorated Table were announced.  Many gifts were given by Florence Davis to the people who have supported her and the Festival over the ten years it has been running.  The important Fast Draw results came next along with the presentation of the trophies.  Finally, Florence was presented with a Tenth Birthday Cake complete with candles!
Kickin' Country

Kickin' Country did their second set and left the audience wanting more, then Texas Gun came on as the headliners to close the Festival.  They put on a fast paced set with a wide variety of music, all in the country style, but including Rock N Roll, 60s and some traditional Scottish tunes.  They asked the Line Dancers to stay on the floor to do "Hooked on Country" a fairly fast line dance, but I knew I could do it, but didn't bargain for the medley of songs, "Scotland The Brave", "Donald Where's Yer Troosers", "Pack Up Your Troubles" and "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", which left most of us breathless!  To close the show they did "Best of Friends" and everyone joined in, an amazing end to a wonderful weekend, one of the very best Kelso Festivals to date.

The sound was handled by Andy Twang and Kyle of Sound Solutions, who did a superb job and Andy Twang even joined Texas Gun on stage to play lead guitar on their last few numbers.  Throughout the weekend a wide range of hot and cold food was available from Caroline's Kitchen, and there was also a well stocked reasonably priced bar.

The next Kelso Country and Western Festival will be held on October 13th to 15th at  Springwood Hall,  The Border Show Ground, Kelso,  all details will be available from their website at
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