The Long Road Returns!

We’ve spent three years waiting for the return of The Long Road but boy was it worth the wait! Of course the music, was superb – we knew it would be pretty good when we saw that line up announced by it exceeded our expectations. As for the atmosphere, you couldn’t have felt more at home, there was a real family vibe about the whole event. Baylen Leonard and his team had thought about everything and everyone, making it as inclusive as possible for all ages with fun and games happening in a kids section throughout the weekend, including a welly throwing contest that I was itching to try my hand at! There were American classic cars on display too and you could have cleared out your bank account on the stalls selling western wear.
The quirky and unique Front Porch stage was where I discovered artists I hadn’t been overly familiar with before. Artists like Valerie Ponzio who was a part of the Colour Me Country line up, curated by Rissi Palmer. Her voice held The Long Road crowd and her songs were well written. Everette and Sam Williams also impressed on this stage on Saturday while The People Versus were endearing.
The headliners did a phenomenal job, Drake White, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives and The Cadillac Three all brought something different to Stanford Hall but were all greatly appreciated by the British crowd. Marty Stuart, dressed to the nines, stepping up in the place of Chris Young with an extended set, brought a flavour of traditional country. The Fabulous Superlatives of course are some of the best musicians around and Marty let them each take centre stage to perform a song or two as the front man. He played songs such as ‘Tempted’ which the crowd all joined in with. He also invited a number of special guests out to play alongside him. First was the fantastic Andrew Combs followed by British star Kezia Gill who did a brilliant rendition of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ before Sunny Sweeney sang the Willie Nelson classic, ‘Good Hearted Woman’. Stuart, who I often refer to as ‘Mr Country Music’ showed why he’s such a revered musician in Nashville. So wise and knowledgeable, an entertainer who keeps real country music alive whilst helping the next one in line rise through the ranks. The Long Road crowd loved his fabulous set.
The headliners weren’t the only talking point though as the large crowd spilled out of the Interstate stage for Priscilla Block’s set on the first day and as she played again later on in the weekend, her new found fans, along with her faithful followers kept on gathering. Meanwhile, Brandy Clark, having been moved onto the Rhinestone stage was given a warm welcome as she played the fan favourites from her previous record as well as a new tune. Her storytelling songs resonated out across the Leicestershire fields, reeling everyone in. She got the tempo just right as the crowd bounced along to the likes of ‘Love Can Go To Hell’, ‘Girl Next Door’, ‘You’re Drunk’ and ‘Stripes’. Cellist and backing singer Vanessa did a superb job of Brandi Carlile’s part in ‘Same Devil’ as well. Of course, Brandy talked us through some of the stories behind the songs, complete with the odd funny anecdote as her personality shone through.
Also catching the eye (or the ear) of many fans was Shy Carter. His set was fun and upbeat, energetic in every way. He posed for the cameras and lapped up the audiences applause when he freestyled a funny song on stage. A bottle of Whiskey in his hand he toasted the crowd, happy to be back once again. He played through a lot of the songs he’d written for other people such as ‘Stuck Like Glue’ made famous by Sugarland and ‘God Whispered Your Name’ by Keith Urban. Alison Russell was also a talking point of the event after her set on the Interstate stage.
A real highlight on the Sunday was the return of the incredible Sara Evans after twenty years away from the UK! Everybody was blown away by her voice as she walked up and down the stage, belting out some of her well known tracks along with a few covers. A real entertainer, I had to take a minute to stand in awe of her incredible performance. Lindsay Ell with her mesmerising guitar skills kept the energy levels high as she entertained the audience with guitar solos, beautiful songwriting and powerful voice. The crowd reaction to LOCASH later on was a sight to behold too as all around the field people were up out of their camping chairs and on their feet singing along, waving their arms in the air and clapping along to songs such as ‘Chillionaire’ and ‘I Love This Life’. They too had an energy about them that was infectious.
Gangstagrass offered something different to The Long Road crowd with their brilliant musicianship and blend of country rap they reeled the crowd in and brought the party atmosphere to the Interstate stage on Sunday. Gretchen Peters was worlds apart from Gangstagrass yet she too drew in a crowd which she held in the palm of her hand with her emotive songwriting, her lyrics resonating with the audience as you could feel every word. A true songwriting legend, Peters is beginning to wind down her live performances as she finishes touring next year, so it was a real treat to hear her in such a lovely setting. There was also a songwriters session opening the show on Sunday morning featuring Sunny Sweeney, Sarah Darling and Whitney Rose at Buddy’s Good Time Bar and despite the late end to Saturday’s festivities, the place was packed! All in all, it was a fantastic weekend which showcased each end of the spectrum of country and Americana music and offered something for everyone. We’re counting down the days until the next one!

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