Sunday, 17 April 2011

Hillbilly Hootenanny - Mid Wales, April 2011

The Hillbilly Hootenanny is a throwback to the travelling troupe shows that used to be the norm in small towns across 40s and 50s America. This particular band of hillbillies featured Ian Cal-Ford and the Railmen, Chuck Micallef and former Darts from man Bob Fish. The glue that held them all together and played with all three acts was the highly talented Dave Luke. Despite being based in mid Wales, he's the guitarist for Nashville stalwart Gail Davies, who also showed his prowess on mandolin and steel guitar. To be able to carry off those black and red cowboy boots he has to be good!

The night kicked off with a set from Canadian Micallef, who sang a mixture of some classics and a few self written tunes. He was joined throughout by Dave Luke on mandolin and duet vocals. I thought that Chuck had a Waylon Jennings feel to his voice and would have loved him to have done some Waylon. The highlight of his set for me were the one he wrote about his dad and Hank's Mind Your Own Business. Dave Luke remained on stage to back Bob Fish, whose plaintative vocals were the perfect foil for his autoharp. The crowd seemed to really enjoy his performance.

The final act was Wales' very own Man in Black Ian Cal-Ford and the Railmen. I first saw them in the 90's at an all-dayer in Bristol when Mac Curtis headed the bill, and was blown away by their authentic sound, with Sitdown Steve Tompsett playing great Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins licks. Nowadays they lean more heavily on the Johnny Cash songbook but still play the odd rockabilly track, as outlined by a stirring cover of Johnny Talley's Wild Wild Mind. The Sun classic Luther Played The Boogie was spot on and another highlight for me was I Still Miss Someone. The crowd were on their feat for a double bill of Ring of Fire and Walk The Line. Milkcow Blues Boogie complete with the "hold it fellas, that don't move me" start allowed Tompsett and Dave Grieves to show their skills. Their great set was rounded off with all the others joining them for a rousing sing-along of Hank's I Saw The Light. Somehow the night ended with Leavin' On A Jet Plane, which although at odds with the Eisenhower era feel of the night, again pleased the crowd and send everyone home in great spirits. If the Hillbilly Hootenanny comes your way, make sure you check it out. It's the real deal.

(Photo courtesy of Ian Cal-Ford).

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