Magical Moments at the Southern Fried Festival in Perth, Scotland
In my never ending quest to bring to ND readers the length and breadth of roots music around the globe, this week the Southern Fried Festival in Perth, Scotland is featured. The festival bills itself as the “Festival of American Roots Music.” Looking at its list of artists over those years, I’d say that is an understatement; it’s guest list over the years is a vertiable who’s who of Americana. It also features outstanding local talent, and the food vendors serve “authentic southern and soul food.” I don’t know about the food, but it is certain that these folks have taken roots culture to heart.
Once again we are fortunate to have Scotland’s Carol Graham to share her report and photos of that festival. As a dedicated follower and chronicler of roots music she’s been there from the beginning. Now, in her own words:
“When we come to Southern Fried, all our friends are playing, and there’s a cross-section of all our audiences here. It’s like a homecoming!” — Gretchen Peters
Singer-songwriters were at the heart of this year’s Southern Fried Festival in Perth, Scotland – with the cream of Americana transported to the historic city over the festival’s four days. Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Iris DeMent, Graham Nash, Darrell Scott and Gretchen Peters headlined, all playing their only Scottish dates and several making this their only European show.
Perth is officially a city, but it feels like a small town. Set in beautiful rural countryside, at first it doesn’t seem the most likely location for the world’s the notable Americana musicians to gather, but dig deeper and the locals will tell tales of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark playing here together many years ago. Fitting then, that both Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle’s sets included Guy Clark covers. Having already done an album of Townes’ songs, Earle also spoke of his plans to record one of Clark’s later this year.
Southern Fried is a very special festival. The venues are superb – from a recently restored historic theatre, to a modern concert hall, to Scotland’s oldest established hotel (the Salutation), and an outdoor stage – all with great acoustics. There is music round the clock, from an early morning opportunity to sit quietly with Gretchen Peters in a local Hi-Fi store and listen to her favourite album on vinyl (Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel) to very late nights with impromptu jams in the Salutation. There are opportunities for children and young adults to join American roots music workshops, and for adults to join the Southern Fried Voices choir at main stage gigs during the festival.
Again, Southern Fried created many memories. This year’s magic included:
1. Eleanor Whitmore – playing for over three hours, with the Mastersons and then Steve Earle. Whitmore was a tour de force; combining energy, multiple instruments and beautiful harmonies, she deserves much more recognition.
2. Steve Earle smiling – lots, during his brilliant and animated set with The Dukes.
3. Rodney Crowell, who arrived late due to train disruptions (after missing last year’s festival entirely, due to health problems). Having no time for his normal sound check, he appropriately opened with ‘Glasgow Girl’ and pulled off a completely flawless set.
4. Rodney Crowell’s guitarist, Joe Robinson. Wow! His stunning solo performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’ completely silenced the Perth Concert Hall.
5. Gordie MacKeeman’s fiddle playing whilst dancing around, rarely with two feet touching the ground.
6. Blue Rose Code with the full Southern Fried Voices Choir covering Gillian Welch’s ‘The Way It Goes’.
7. Amythyst Kiah – a talented singer songwriter to watch in future.
8. Gretchen Peters discussing the history of Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel, after listening in silence to Emmylou’s beautiful harmonies on the vinyl album being played on high-end Hi-Fi system.
9. Gretchen Peters at Perth Concert Hall; her first set was chosen entirely by the audience, and then joined by a string quartet.
10. Graham Nash’s career-spanning set, which included uplifting news about Joni Mitchell’s recovery.
Now, again with get to experience Carol’s gorgeous photos, taken with her Sony mirrorless camera. I am envious.