Easton: Americana’s past and present collide at this year’s Maverick Festival

Maverick Festival 2014 Holly Williams

Maverick Festival 2014 Holly Williams - Credit: Archant

This year’s Maverick Festival looks both at the future stars of Americana and roots music as much as those who helped shape them.

Maverick Festival 2014 David Hood

Maverick Festival 2014 David Hood - Credit: Archant

Today’s crunch day for organiser Paul Spencer, who I’ve caught in the middle of okaying T-shirt designs and programmes for the printers. Handing me a rough copy of the latter, he sighs as he notices another typo.

Maverick Festival 2014 Mary Gauthier

Maverick Festival 2014 Mary Gauthier - Credit: Archant

“It’s a busy time. I have a lot of fun trawling through bands from America, Canada, all over the place and a lot of UK bands now as well, making selections. That’s the fun part; but yes, the logistics are all coming on us now.

“Easton Farm Park is a working farm and a tourist attraction in its own right, it’s coming up to their busy time.

“They’ve had more Suffolk Punches born so we have to work around all its normal activities but at the same time we have to get in there and transform it into a festival site.”

This year’s festival, which runs from July 4-6, marks a bit of a departure for Spencer, who has entered into an exciting partnership with the Alabama Tourist Board which has picked up on Maverick’s reputation as a beacon for Americana music in the UK.

“Alabama has a very illustrious history as a music state. It was the home of Hank Williams, they have the Alabama Music Hall of Fame there and, famously Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

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“We’re going to be screening the Muscle Shoals documentary as our feature film presentation and the tourist board is flying over at its expense one of the people who appears in the film, David Hood. He’s a legendary session musician who played there for about 17-18 years in the golden era of the 1960s-1970s when everyone from Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, etc (recorded there).

“All those classic songs people have probably got in their record collection, he’s the guy who actually played bass on them so we’re excited about that. He’ll do a Q+A as well. It’s great added value for my audience and a terrific film.

“There’s a young musician on the bill from Alabama as well called Hannah Aldridge from Muscle Shoals, she’s the daughter of Walt Aldridge, another very well known songwriter and session musician who played there during the golden era.”

Describing Hood as the old school and Aldridge the upcoming new young blood, Spencer says while people will obviously flock to hear about the golden days he also wants to keep moving forward and focus on where the music is heading now.

“Hannah’s very much part of continuing the legacy... We have that theme as well with Holly Williams, the granddaughter of Hank Williams, who originally came from Birmingham, Alabama. Again we’ve got a strong Alabama connection there but she’s the new generation, not somebody who is trading on her grandfather’s name.”

Spencer’s never been interested in any sort of sponsorship before, adding it usually equals interference and often as not entails having to do things you don’t want to do; hardly the Maverick way. He describes the team-up with the tourist board as wonderfully symbiotic.

It’s allowed to them to upgrade the outdoor stage from the traditional, low-key trailer stage to a “proper” festival stage - complete with a massive backdrop painted to resemble an Alabama number plate - without having to change what they do.

“There’s lots of synchronicity with Alabama but it fits in brilliantly with what we do; nevertheless we have wonderful artists like Williams and Mary Gauthier who’s from Louisiana but is now based in Nashville - we have her exclusively for our festival so we’re excited.”

Now in its seventh year, and once again making its way into several national newspapers’ top 50 festival lists, attendance figures have steadily grown year after year. Early sales figures point to the same this year.

“This year we have 47 different bands performing. Commercially successful acts, the likes of Mumford and Sons, would tip their hat to the kind of artist we have, they’re all the people who have influenced and inspired them to do what they do,” says Spencer.

“If you want to take a step back (from that) and look at the music we present you get a sense of where a lot of music has/is coming from and hearing people who are perhaps a little more authentic. That’s the other big word for us when we talk about roots music and Americana - authentic.

“That’s probably the common denominator on all the bands, whether they’re the New Essex Bluegrass Band who play and sing into one mic which is a very pure bluegrass tradition right across to Danny and The Champions of the World who are more like Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band... these bands all are drawing from that same tradition... (It’s) that authenticity and musical virtuosity without any of the whistles and bells of production trickery that is so much a part of what we hear on the radio now that will ring out on the stages.”

For who’s playing where and when, workshop info and more, plus ticket details, visit www.maverickfestival.co.uk

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