Country On The Coast - Country Music Festival Review



Pier photo credited to Sam Coe

Artist photo's credited to Ian Morrall.

We were totally gutted when we saw the line-up for the friday night of this new country music festival because we knew, we wouldn't be able to get there in time to see all those wonderful artists. The line-up went like this... The Peaches who are new to us but after talking to some of the audience members, they were really well liked. Kezia Gill who we have seen a couple of times and is totally phenomenal, Gasoline & Matches who are definitely a not to be missed duo, totally awesome, Two Ways Home who are a fantastic duo too and finally topping the bill were Morganway who blow me away every time I see them perform. You can tell why I was upset at not being able to attend now can't you.

Saturday morning we arrived at the Gaiety's Bar on the Pier in Southsea, Portsmouth and were greeted by Lily Garland who has organised this new country event. She was excited and looking forward to the day. As we were going to be filming some acoustic sessions (aptly named 'End Of The Pier Sessions' by my husband Ian Morrall) for our website and youtube channel she had managed to organise a location for us in which to film. A sweet shop, with what turned out to be fabulous acoustics.

The venue was stunning. It had a really nice big stage at the bottom end of the room and a bar all down one side. The bottom level was laid out will big round tables with black cloths on them which showed off the leaflets that had been put round to great advantage. We of course added ours into the mix. It's the first time we have actually remembered to do it hahaha. Walk up 3 steps and you have a slightly higher level all set with square tables and booths against the outside wall. The artists on the stage could look out to the pebble beach and the sea and watch the ferries go back and forth which several of them commented on. I reckon you could comfortably seat 500 people in that room. The festival itself was well attended and apart from James Vince from 'Live in the Living Room' and the W21Music team all the audience apart from 4 people were unknown to us. However it was the other way round with the artists. We knew personally or had at least chatted on social media with all but 4 artists.

The Compare and resident DJ for the event was radio presenter Russell Hill.


The opening artist of the day was Eric Walker. He released his single 'Sunset' just the day before on 26th April. Its a really nice ballad that shows off his voice really well so you might want to check it out. He ran the London Marathon on Sunday so hopefully he did well with that.


It's always a pleasure to catch up with Kira Mac who sang a mixture of her old and new songs. She has such an incredible voice. Kira also recorded an 'End of the Pier' Session with us so that is something for you all to look forward too.


I am familiar with Phoenix Morby's music so it was nice to finally catch a live performance from him. He is a bit of an 'outlaw' but that's good right? 'Rattlesnake Highway' is my favourite original and luckily he loves to play it.


Next up was The Southern Companion. Darren Hodson has the most astounding vocal. It is one of my favourite male voices and the stories he tells through his songwriting are superb. I personally think he is the UK's answer to Chris Stapleton. His new album 'Shine A Little Light' is amazing.


Originally from Ireland Mairead is now based in London. She has the most beautiful voice. Joined on stage by her guitarist Tom Gene. We thought that was it but halfway through her set her drummer and bassist turn up. Now whether they couldn't park the car or went out for an ice-cream I don't know but having a band behind her took Maireads' performance to a whole new level.

I like the fact that Lily had the artists play longer sets. I have always said if I ever organise an event it will be fewer artists singing longer sets. Being a singer myself I know that it feels like you are just getting into your rhythm at 20 minutes into a performance and then its over. And from a press point of view as we were filming acoustic sessions in between sets it meant that we didn't miss a complete set. We were still able to enjoy the main stage artists too. Less stressful taking photos, changing memory cards, setting up the camera for filming. It worked really well.


The female half (they left the boys in Liverpool) of the band The Hard Way Home performed next. Two guitars and a harmonica to create yet another different sound. They also had the most gorgeous harmonies and I cannot wait to see this band again.


Wearing all blue and having blue hair to match Lucy Blu is instantly recognisable. She finished off the outfit with a shiny bright red guitar. Stunning. Her current single 'Row Your Own' has a real cowboy beat. Its always great to catch one of Lucy's sets.


The gorgeous Hannah Paris rocked it out with her band. Amid all her original material she dropped in a cover of Allanah Myles 'Black Velvet' which you wouldn't think would work in a country set. Well it was fantastic. I loved it. I used to sing this myself so it was a real pleasure to sing along with Hannah. She also had the most amazing boots on. Black ankle boots with a gorgeous glittery heel. If I could still wear heels I would want a pair haha.


We had spent a good part of our day sharing a table with our next performer and his girlfriend. Lovely people and I'm really happy that Rachel is part of our FBC team. The performer is of course Danny McMahon. He is such a powerful vocalist with such a range to his voice. He is also quite the showman when he is on stage because he appears fairly shy when not performing.


It seems like I have known the next artist for years and yet although I have her music and have seen her video's I have only ever seen her perform as a solo artist with a guitarist. Well I was blown away by her performance at Country On The Coast. Knowing she is a classically trained singer explained the extraordinary control she has over her voice. She had an energetic band with 3 backing singers and gave 200% to her performance. She rocked the pier.

Headlining saturday night were a lovely bunch of lads from somerset. Collectively they are known as Square One. They have so much fun together on stage that it really makes for a special performance. They certainly know how to make country rock. We also heard some songs that are so new that they haven't been recorded yet.

Day one certainly ended on a high note.

We arrived at the pier just as they were setting the carvery out in Gaiety's Bar. I don't know of another festival where you can get sunday roast for lunch while taking in the atmosphere that live country music offers its audience. I wish I hadn't just eaten a full english breakfast at my sisters because it looked gorgeous.


First artist of the day is Jenny June. This young lady is new to me but she did an acoustic session with us and her voice is sublime. She looked every inch a modern country artist in her black leather shorts with studded belt. I am definitely looking forward to seeing her again.

At this point I would just like to say a huge thank you to a band called Tennessee Twin who although were not performing at Country on the Coast, drove all the way from Cambridge to film an End of the Pier Session with us. The duet was so beautiful that it actually make me cry. Good tears I might add.


Our very good friend Simon James was the next artist to take to the stage. He invited Sam Coe to harmonise with him. He was very grateful that the audience loved to listen to "songwriters self penned stories" and he is a great songwriter himself. I am very grateful to the shout out he gave Forever British Country too. I've always loved his songs but I especially love the direction his new songs are taking him in.


Our next trio Royal South are a band I have been wanting to catch for years. All the way from Nashville Tennessee. Every time they come to the UK for a tour we are on holiday at the opposite end of the country. So I was very excited when these guys were added to the line-up at Country on the Coast. As expected their set was full of energy and fun with stunning harmonies, a bit of banter and amazing songs. When they came off stage we were able to grab them for an 'End of the Pier Session' and it was double fantastic so make sure you watch it when its published.


1/3 of Winters Hill performed next. In case you don't know, I am a sucker for a husky vocal and Max has 'husky' by the bucketful. I really enjoyed his solo performance but I also am really looking forward to catching this trio when they are all performing together.


I met Elliott Joseph last summer when he recorded a barn session as Emily Faye's guitarist and have met him a number of times since then. Such a beautiful person. He and his band performed a very high energy set. They put their heart and soul into the performance. They have a very distinct sound. An Irish sounding fiddle coupled with rocky guitar riffs. I absolutely love it and so will you. Go and check him out.


At 6:30 on a sunny sunday evening headlining band Sam Coe & The Long Shadows take to the stage to close the first ever Country On The Coast. I first met them when they performed at C2C 2 years ago. There is no other British country artist who has a voice like Sam's. It is one of those instantly recognisable ones. It's good to have that individual sound and its not only Sams vocal that is individual. They have a lovely Americana style of music too. They stand out from the crowd, that's for sure. They played a mixture of old favourites then threw in a few new songs too. A really great performance.

Lily Garland should be congratulated. It really has been a fabulous good value for money weekend. The audience stayed to the end and it was all finished by 7:30pm so not to late for people who think they can't go as they have work on monday morning. By the time we said our goodbye's and we were ready to leave it was still only 8 o'clock. Then we made the 4 hour trip back to Staffordshire after helping a damsel in distress at the petrol station. That Sam Coe gets everywhere hahaha.


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