Review: The Welshpool Country Music Festival - July 2018

Review by Nutty Norah

This 31st Welshpool Country Music Festival took place over the weekend of July 13th to 15th 2018, in glorious sunny weather!  On the Friday from 7:00pm there was entertainment in the Beer Tent with the ladies choir Castle Belles followed by West Country Duo.  As usual it was all organised by Pedro who has been on the country circuit for 25 years playing traditional country, up until about eight years ago when he changed his style to incorporate the line and western dance scene.  He started using his own name Peter Barlow, but is still affectionately known to many as Pedro.

The Earl of Powis allows the Huelwen Trust to use the Powis Castle Showfield to stage the Welshpool Country and Western Festival, a truly stunning location with views over the Severn Valley and within walking distance of the traditional market town of Welshpool.  As well as the two stages there are shops around the edges of the Festival Showfield selling western clothing and accessories, camping essentials and food of all kinds. There is the large Beer Tent and a traditional style Tea Tent.  On site camping and caravaning is available when purchasing weekend tickets in advance for the event. 

There are two stages at Welshpool, the Main Stage and the Showcase Stage, the latter being the place for new and up-coming artists to perform to a wider audience. It is also a place for established artists to bring their style of Country to the festival goers, who may not have had the opportunity to see them perform previously.  The Showcase Stage opened on Saturday at 11:30 am and closed at around 10:45pm with continuous acts throughout the day, including John Smith, Blue Genes, Stevie O'Connor, Chad McGowan, Frankie Wesson, Jessica Ginty, The Maharaja Blues, Luke Day, Lars Pluto, Sam Coe and The Long Shadows, Mount Pleasant, One Crow Show.

Opening the show on the Main Stage on the Saturday was the traditional charge down the hill by the Welshpool Westerners, led by Pedro, at 10:45am with the first act on stage at 11:00am the duo Gambler.  They were followed by Donna Wylde and then Nashville Numbers.  During the afternoon interval an artist, who appeared on the Showcase Stage last year, was given the opportunity to do a set on the Main Stage this year and that was the excellent  Amy Westney.   Completing Saturday's line up were Magill and the Hayley Oliver Band.   As always, Pedro, and some of the Showcase artists, entertained in the Beer Tent after the show had finished and the party continued into the wee small hours!, in the guise of Allan Watkiss and Nutty Norah, arrived at Welshpool early on the Sunday morning to prepare for the Live broadcast, in time to get set up before the Welshpool Westerners came down the hill, guns blazing, to the song "The South Will Rise Again"! 
The Welshpool Westerners

During the early afternoon there was a visit from "The Animal Man" who brings in some exotic animals for the children (and adults) to interact with, if they dare!  Spiders and snakes spring to mind!  He sets up his menagerie near the Tea Tent and soon gathers an audience around him.  Allan was hoping to get chance to chat to "The Animal Man" and perhaps have me holding a tarantula or snake - it didn't happen!

Echo Papa

The Showcase Stage opened from 11:30am through to 7:00pm, the first artist on was Echo Papa, whom I saw on that stage last year and she was very good.  As we were busy with the Live broadcast, opposite the Main Stage, we didn't have chance to catch any of the acts on the Showcase Stage, but we did chat on air to all of them, except Tom Wright - apologies to Tom, but we will catch up with him next time.  I have no doubt he put on an excellent show having seen him previously and he was headlining the Showcase Stage. 
Ruby Allen

Other Showcase artists included Ruby Allen, who is just eleven years old and had the support of her Dad, Simon Clewlow, Backwoods Creek, Tom Wright and Abi Foster.

Abi Foster

Triple finalist in the UK Country Music Awards, presented by in the categories UK Country Artist of the Year and UK Country Female Singer of the Year and UK Country Album of the Year for "Wash Away The Years", Helena Mace, was one of the Showcase Stage highlights. 
Helena Mace

Also drawing a large audience to the Showcase Stage was the trio ORFILA who are a brother and two sisters and have been well known for some time to listeners.

On the Main Stage the opening act at 11:00am was Fools Gold, with a slightly changed line up, Debbie having decided it was time to retire and allow her daughter Melissa to take her place!  Two excellent sets from Fools Gold had the Line Dancers and the listening audience shouting for more. 
Fools Gold

Two sets from The Jeff Gallant Band completed the first half of the Sunday show.  They are a four-piece band including an excellent Steel Guitar player who did a couple of solo numbers which the audience loved, particularly "Almost Persuaded".  They played a wide variety of styles and songs to please just about everyone, from the Line Dancers favourite "Lonely Drum" to Johnny Cash's "Stripes", the Mavericks and Merle Haggard songs.
Jeff Gallant

What can you say about the Haley Sisters, that hasn't already been said?  Their amazing harmonies are legendary along with Slidin' Smiffy (Brian Smith) adding that unique expertise on the slide guitar.  The Haleys included some of their own songs along with the usual covers in their two sets and were well received by the very large audience.

The Haley Sisters (the one in the middle is Nutty Norah)
During the interval it was the turn of one of last year's most popular acts on the Showcase Stage to appear on the Main Stage and it was the band called Angels With Dirty Faces, who appeared on our 10th Birthday Party and UK Country Music Awards last September.  The band is fairly new on the country circuit, but the lead singer Stuart Landon has had many years of experience in other bands and as a solo artist.  Over the past year the "Angels" have had slightly changed line-ups and this five-piece version had a very tight and pleasing sound.

Raising extra cash for charity, one of the stewards, Foxy, had grown his hair all year and was going to have it all shaved off on stage while a blanket was passed around for people to throw in their odd bits of change!  The bald Foxy was cheered and given a Dolly Parton wig to wear!

Speaking of Dolly Parton, Andrea Pattison presented a very credible tribute to Dolly, looking and sounding remarkably like the "real thing".  Her costume was just like one that Dolly has worn on stage, very lavish and sparkly. Andrea strutted around the stage very much like Dolly does, singing "Here You Come Again" and "Nine to Five" along with many more Dolly favourites.  When she spoke she sounded just like Dolly, ditching her North East accent for an American one.  An excellent Tribute Act to Dolly Parton very much enjoyed and appreciated by the audience.

Andrea Pattison

One of my favourite bands closed the Festival at 7:00pm and they were the amazing Texas Gun.  So professional, bringing fun and great voices to the Festival, including the audience participation on "Country Roads" which always gets everyone on their feet and singing as loud as they can!  Texas Gun played a good variety of music, including a couple that I sneaked off to Line Dance to, "Champagne Promise" and the one that they hate "Lonely Drum"!  They included "The Banks of Loch Lomond" even though they were in Wales and the Line Dancers still danced to it!  Closing off the Festival in the style for which they are renown with a rousing version of "Wind Beneath My Wings" Texas Gun were a firm favourite with the Welshpool Festival audience.
Texas Gun

The traditional closing of the Festival was by the Welshpool Westerners led by Pedro performing the Mexican and American Trilogy.  Throughout the weekend the weather was lovely and sunny and the whole atmosphere of the Festival was happy and friendly.  The Festival is organised by the Heulwen Trust which was formed in 1985 to bring enjoyment and pleasure to people who may not be as able as most.  They run two narrow boats, especially adapted for disabled and wheelchair users, on the Montgomery canal, which are free to travel on by the disabled.  Members of the public can purchase tickets to ride on the boats when they are not being used by the disabled.  The Country Music Festival is the main fund raiser for the Heulwen Trust raising a good part of the £30,000 needed to keep the narrow boats afloat. is looking forward to broadcasting Live again from next year's Welshpool Country and Western Festival, over the full weekend, why not make a date to join us there?  You will not be disappointed, great music, great company and hopefully, great weather! 
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