Now in its 12th year, Maverick Festival continues to be one of the premier festivals of the summer for lovers of Americana and roots music, the culmination of founder and director Paul Spencer’s working year. Festival goers with ages spanning, at a pinch, three generations were up for entertainment over a whole weekend but your intrepid AUK reporter could only attend the first day and that didn’t get off to a great start as seemingly the entire population of East Anglia chose to drive their juggernauts up the A12 that afternoon in order to prevent our timely arrival. However, arrive we did. The sun was warm but not searing and the music was as stimulating as ever.
The Peacock stage, with its splendid multi-coloured backdrop of said bird, had been turned into a Bluegrass hub for the evening; consistent with the roots world’s movement towards increasing ‘authenticity’ which has restored this strand of music to the prominence it enjoyed before Elvis broke the mould. In this vein, the Bombadils are a talented Canadian duo comprised of Luke Fraser (Nova Scotia) and Sarah Frank (Alberta) making their UK debut. Down-home and understated, their claim to having rowed across the Atlantic to get here was almost credible. They had some impressive numbers such as ‘Train In The Night’ recalling Fraser’s youth in the remote countryside, and a stirring lilting instrumental about the squirrels and raccoons of the Toronto fauna world. The set drew mainly from their impressive debut album ‘New Shoes’.
Also Peacocking on Friday was Chance McCoy, doing a solo stint away from his main day job with heavy hitters Old Crow Medicine Show. His pedigree comes through in the quality of his songs, sometimes classic West Coast country/freeway-rock a la America or Poco, along with rootsier songs going into The Band’s territory, (OCMS do have their full rendition of Blonde on Blonde in the locker of course). He is as adept as a fiddler as he is on guitar.
The Moonlight stage is mainly reserved for solo or duo acts, due to its smaller size, and the ever-lively Hannah Aldridge played her first of three sets there, “on the hour every hour,” as she put it. She was accompanied on guitar by Gustav Sjodin bringing added richness to her already lustrous sound. She tested out some sharp new songs, one of which had Lachlan Bryan popping up on stage to sing along, as well as material from her two albums ‘Razor Wire’ and ‘Gold Rush’.
Aldridge was followed by the equally gifted but slightly more reserved presence of Angel Snow, another Deep South resident. With particularly powerful support on guitar provided by the haunting tones of Bristolian talent Joe Wilkins, Snow played her big hitter (via Alison Kraus) ‘Lie Awake’ and introduced new songs, ‘Maze’ and the title track ‘Arrows’ from her latest EP.
The Resonant Rogues from Asheville, North Carolina, offered up a fine array of strings and harmonised vocals. The upright bass in particular kept things thudding along at a rat-a-tat pace yet never lost the melody or the subtle melee of influences from Appalachia, New Orleans, and the Balkans.
Broken Bones Matilda are the closest to a pop-rock band on offer tonight and they played on The Barn stage – the one for the more raunchier, even danceable, acts – indeed after seeing six acts this was the first time that a drum kit is on stage. BBM, as we will call them, have an impressive stash of polished crafted songs such as ‘Madeline’ and ‘Hullaballoo’ that wouldn’t disgrace peak Blondie, whilst ‘Butterfly’ headed towards Jefferson Airplane raunch. They closed with the lovely country rock tones of ‘City By The Bay’. Core members Sam and Sarah, healthily limbed to the naked eye, look to be going places and their multi-festivalled CV shows they are putting in the hard yards.