Review by Nutty Norah
As usual it was a small audience for Friday afternoon's show and started unusually with Zenne just going on stage and starting to sing! No "Welcome to Kelso" no one to introduce her, but Zenne just got on with entertaining the audience. It wasn't until Zenne finished her first set that she came back on stage to introduce the trio "American Routes" and explained that as Dave Cash's wife was ill he was unable to be at the Festival and that she had been asked to take over as compere, or should that be "commere"? It was a very nice gesture by Angie the DJ to pick up her microphone and bring Zenne off stage to rapturous applause following her second set - well done Angie!
"American Routes" had some amazing three-part harmonies and apart from using backing tracks they also did some acoustic numbers and one a-cappella number that had the audience shouting for more.
As Dave Cash was unable to be at the Festival, sound engineer M T Allan took his place in the running order and put on an excellent entertaining set, including some jokes (probably stolen from Cashy)!
Next on was the tribute show "Ultimate Waylon" starring Ronny J Morson, who not only sounds like Waylon Jennings, he also looks like him (when he was alive of course)! Ronny takes on the complete persona of Waylon and does the whole show as if he is Waylon; I'm not too sure about that, I think I'd rather he was himself, except for when he is singing Waylon's songs, but he was well received by the Kelso audience. Ronny's backing band were some of the finest musicians in the UK, including Jim Hand on bass and Barry Gaskell on steel guitar.
Closing the Friday show were "The Picasso Brothers" fronted, of course, by Jonty Martindale. It is some time since I last saw this band and I must say that they are now getting back to the "Fabulous" of their previous incarnation! Some great rocking songs, and the odd slow one, with Jonty's powerful voice, finished the night off in fine style.
Saturday morning started with Line Dance Tuition with Phil and Angie, who also provides the Country Disco between acts and to finish of the evenings entertainment. In another hall the Fast Draw competition got underway - the Gunfighters don't transport their competition guns in holsters, but in locked metal cases. Health and Safety, y'know!
The show started at 1:00pm with a set from the very popular Brian Gibson who can entertain listening audiences and dancers alike and has a very good fan following.
Brian was followed on stage by the duo "Cheyenne" Angie and Ky from Folkestone who were finishing off a ten day tour of Scotland before returning home to Folkestone. Angie did an excellent cover of Little Big Town's "Girl Crush".
During the afternoon Belle Boyd (Florence Davis) hosted the Western Ladies Afternoon Tea Party, with tea and cakes and small glass of "punch" to toast Absent Friends. It is a fun event with some lively (in character) chatter and much "carryings on"!
The afternoon also saw the impressive "Mexican Trilogy" with the "Dance of the Flags" commemorating the fall of the Alamo. Always a spectacular event and amazing costumes.
The evening show started with the duo "Kentucky Rain" getting everyone in the mood for a great night with some popular songs and lovely harmonies. "Next of Kin" picked up the pace and the floor was soon full of dancers. It is over a year since I last saw this band and I must say they continue to improve and polish their act. I especially liked their cover of Little Big Town's "Pontoon" and The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two".
Closing the Saturday show was "Lazy Dog" fronted by Neil with the long blonde hair! This was the last time the bass player would be on stage with them has he had decided to retire, so it was something of a party atmosphere both on stage and in the hall. "Lazy Dog" are one of my favourite bands and always put on an excellent show, it is a shame that they are not getting as many bookings as they would like, so I hope that will improve for them. They are a hard working band, able to back other artists, either visiting from the USA or our own UK solo artists, as well as putting on a first rate show in their own right.
Sunday morning once again included Line Dance tuition from Phil and Angie and also the finals of the Fast Draw Competition. In the afternoon the Western Ladies again took Afternoon Tea with Belle Boyd.
The Native American Trilogy took place with Chief Eight Bears of the Kiowa re-enacting the surrender to the White Man of the Indian Nations after the Indian Wars. As usual he was resplendent in his full costume, including a full length Indian War Bonnet, spear, tomahawk and arrows.
Opening the music side of Sunday's show was Paul Jackson who has a great voice, but the show stopper was his acoustic version of "Desperado". When an encore was called for, it was that song that everyone wanted to hear again, which makes me wonder why he bothered to use backing tracks for the rest of his set.
Zoe and Kenny of McKenZie can always be relied upon to put on a good professional show, and today that is just what they did. They were just completing a UK tour and had little time to meet friends and fans afterwards as they had to get to Stanstead to catch a flight back home to France. However, Kenny rushed around the hall after their second set on stage trying to make sure he had spoken to everyone, including me!
The evening show started with Trey Jackson, again a very accomplished solo artist who gave a very good account of himself and the audience and line dancers enjoyed his set.
The most poignant part of the Festival was when Bronco (Brian O'Reilly) arrived for the American Trilogy in his wheelchair. Belle Boyd (Florence Davis) pushed Bronco in the wheelchair at the head of the parade of the all Western dressed participants in the American Trilogy, and everyone in the room, who could, stood up in respect. Not following the usual pattern, Bronco took the microphone and spoke falteringly and asked that everyone at the Festival should have a smile on their faces saying that he did not want to see any sadness. Once the flag folding ceremony had taken place the gunfighters, at Bronco's command, fired the salutes. The parade moved off with Bronco and Belle at the head, pausing at the catering window where the staff were standing to shake Bronco's hand, the same at the bar, and then back down to the stage where Bronco wanted a photograph of himself with everyone, which the photographer took from the stage and it looked very impressive once printed and framed. A wonderful souvenir for Bronco to take back to the Hospice.
"Little Rock" were next on stage - the American Trilogy was a hard act to follow, but Chris and Steve did a great set, which included "Seven Spanish Angels" which saw Bronco and Belle on the dance floor for the last time, with two large gunfighters lifting Bronco out of his wheelchair and supporting him while he "danced" with Belle, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house, but everyone kept smiling because that is what Bronco wanted.
Next the results of the Fast Draw competition were announced and awards presented, with one of the youngest Gunfighters taking the microphone and making the announcements. There was a special medal for the youngest Gunfighter, son of the official photographer, who had been in Western dress all weekend and he was very proud to receive his award. Great to see them starting young!
"Blue Horizon" closed the Festival with a great fast paced set, which had everyone up dancing and having a good time. I had seen this band before, some time ago, and was not very impressed with them, but this time I thought they had certainly upped their game and what a brilliant band they are and everyone at Kelso would agree. The night ended with everyone joining hands and singing "Best of Friends".
Many thanks to Florence Davis for organising the Festival and to everyone who made it the success it was. The next Country and Western Festival at Kelso will be on May 20th, 21st and 22nd 2016, early bird tickets are already on sale and full details can be found at www.kelso.countrymusic-festival.co.uk