I was quite tempted to book last year but didn't. They had a few tempting names which were initially attractive but below that, it was slightly thin fare, including a lot of bland British "Americana" wannabees. Plus when they started flogging off day tickets rather early, this seemed a bit panicky and raised warning bells about whether the thing might actually happen at all. It did, I didn't go, a friend did but didn't camp (shame on him) but he said it was, well, all in all pretty good. His musical tastes are somewhat cosier than mine so I wasn't entirely convinced, and I have little time for an audience who think they're hip by wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hats and yelling "yee-ha" at the sight of a fiddle or a banjo; too many post-festival photos gave off that vibe.
As it happened, for this year the very early bird tix were seriously alluring, so I succumbed, albeit with the cushion of event cancellation insurance. And with reservations. Nevertheless, I got the sense that the organisers were making a serious effort to push on and get some credible and progressive acts on the line-up, and not just rely on stuff that gets played on Bob Harris Country (sorry Bob, you've done good work, but you're well past your sell-by date). Amongst the first announcements there were some kind of really more than OK people: Band Of Horses, John Butler Trio (not exactly Americana, but yeah, good), The Dead South, Ryan Bingham, John Smith: this is good stuff. Then there was a wadge of generic blues/southern rock acts, the pick of which may prove to be Larkin Poe, and the rest are, well, second division, with not much chance of promotion. Then there was the filler I sort of expected. Well, you do have to have tea breaks sometime. Not so bad, all in all.
Yesterday's late night announcements left me a whole lot happier. Neko Case. Wow. Justin Townes Earle. Ooh. And Lucero! Eek! A band I've seen probably 15-20 times: Ben, Brian, Rick, Tunbridge Wells? Heh, Heh. KK - lot of legacy there. The Mavericks, well they're always a pleaser live. Yep, happier! It's going to be allright. Hats off to the promoters. Wait, oh no. The Staves. Bloody Bob Harris.