Easton: Americana stars head to farm park for Maverick Festival

Dennis Ellsworth, one of many acts performing at this year's Maverick Festival

Dennis Ellsworth, one of many acts performing at this year's Maverick Festival - Credit: Archant

The UK’s number one celebration of American roots music takes over Easton Park Farm this weekend. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage talks to Maverick Festival co-founder Paul Spencer and some of the artists about this year’s event.

Tina C. Picture: Sophie Boleyn

Tina C. Picture: Sophie Boleyn - Credit: Archant

You heard it here first, Paul is making his long-awaited return to the Maverick stage.

Old Man Luedecke

Old Man Luedecke - Credit: Archant

“Long-awaited by whom I’m not exactly sure... luckily it’s my festival so I can do things like that,” he laughs.

The Good Lovelies

The Good Lovelies - Credit: Archant

Paul, his wife Barbara and steel guitarist BJ Cole will be accompanying Dennis Ellsworth when he performs at the festival.

Anna Coogan

Anna Coogan - Credit: Archant

“I was in Canada, met Dennis and got really smitten with his music and with him. I was up here in the office late one night after a few drinks, doing a bit of paperwork, listening to his record. I thought you know what, the trouble with bringing people over from America and Canada is we can never afford to bring the full band.

“I was listening to the album thinking ‘what this needs is bass and drums, a bit of steel guitar, which is all over this record’. I’m a retired drummer and my wife is a bass player and singer and I know a lot of musicians. So I had this mad idea that we could put together a little backing band for Dennis to really push what he does and give it that extra edge that only a band could.

“I sent off an e-mail to Canada in a drunken sort of haze, expecting (him) to say ‘oh that’s very nice Paul, but I think I’ll probably be alright on my own’ and my feelings wouldn’t have been hurt... I was a bit embarrassed to have suggested it. He came back and said ‘wow, I love your crazy idea, are we going to rehearse or just wing it on the day’.

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“Because I’m such a big fan, I’ve programmed him before Mindy Smith so he’s the penultimate act on Saturday night in the Peacock Cafe so it’s got to be good... there’s going to be a lot of people in there. Now I’m faced with him coming over the Thursday before Maverick and us doing a mad run through. BJ won’t need to rehearse, he’s played with everybody from Elton John and REM to Dolly Parton.”

It’s only the second time Paul will have played at the festival he’s been organising for the last six years.

“I did play with my wife’s band the very first Maverick, we were the very first band on on the Friday when luckily there weren’t too many people there and my phone kept going off all through the set because of all sorts of problems as you can imagine; so that was a bit of a laugh. I haven’t played since.

“This (time) may sound like an ego trip but it really came from a place of wanting Dennis’ songs to have an extra dynamic range so I’ve talked myself into something now,” he laughs. “I’m not saying I’ll regret it, but it’s going to add an extra element of tension as it gets nearer.”

Taking place from July 5-7, visitors can enjoy more than 40 world class artists plus comedy, dance, film, workshops and showcases across five stages - four of them under cover if the British Weather doesn’t play ball - as well as the wealth of local traders providing regional beers, ciders, lagers and food.

As well as a smattering of previous festival favourites, there are plenty of new acts to savour.

“I have the luxury of being able to pick and choose bands that come across my radar during the year and I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of trips to Canada, so I’ve been introduced to a lot more Canadian talent this year. You’ll see that reflected in the line-up with people like Ruth Moody, The Good Lovelies, Dennis...

“There’s a young lady from Nashville called Mindy Smith too, who had a big hit with a cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. This is the first time she’s been to the UK since that early record so she’s definitely someone we’ve got expectations of,” says Paul.

He also has a secret weapon up his outrageous comedy slot sleeve in the shape of Tina C - aka comic, actor and performer Christopher Green.

“Tina C is a country singer from Nashville and has that same cutting satirical, observational humour (previous Maverick performer) Rich Hall has in terms of drawing out differences between England and America and making fun of them in a highly original and provocative way. Chris is convincing as a singer as well, so that’s the icing on the cake for me,” says Paul.

Attendance is up every year, no doubt helped by the likes of Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Civi Wars infilitrating the mainstream. Americana and roots music’s no longer, says Paul, seen as “your parents’ music”.

The festival is lauded by fans and critics for it’s intimitacy, with attendance capped at a couple of thousand. Queues are rare and you’re likely to bump into your favourite act at the bar or watching one of the other acts - another draw.

“It’s not like a festival where the bigger bands come on as it gets later in the night; that’s not really how Maverick works. You’re just as likely to see someone at 2pm on Saturday in the Moonshine bar who is your favourite of the whole festival; they’re not necessarily going to be the person that you see at 11pm.

“That’s the magic, that’s what I strive for, the musical mix is at the core of the festival it’s still the thing that keeps us us. What gives me most pleasure is when people discover new artists, it’s all unexpected and everybody has a different story so everybody’s best festival act will be different.”

“I’m really excited to return to Suffolk for the Maverick Festival. I had an amazing time last summer playing in Suffolk at Snape Maltings,” says Junos winner Old Man Luedecke. “I’ve heard it’s a really great environment for musicians and fans alike.”

Dennis Ellsworth’s had his eye on the festival for a few years.

“Mark Olson, one of my favorite songwriters has appeared at this festival and it is an honour for me to be following his path. I look forward to a wonderful, sun-glazed weekend of terrific music in the English countryside. I can’t wait,” he adds.

When Anna Coogan was in the early days of her touring career, a friend ran a seminar about touring in the UK which she attended. It covered the basics - renting cars, left driving, booking shows, etc.

“She handed out a postcard with her itinerary that included the Maverick Festival. After looking at the line-up, I remember thinking people must have great taste in music in the UK and within the year had my first UK tour booked. Playing Maverick feels like I’ve arrived - I’m not sure where exactly - but I’m thrilled to be there.” The Good Lovelies are excited to be heading back to the festival.

“Our UK audiences have been very welcoming and supportive. This is an extended tour - a full three weeks in the UK and we’re bringing some new tunes and a new live album with us this time around. What an honour to be playing the Maverick Festival alongside some of our favourite Americana acts, including some of our Canadian countrymen and women.”

Playing the Barn from 5pm-11.30pm tonight are The Black Feathers, The Ely Plains, Kristin Diable, Old Man Luedecke, Police Dog Hogan, Eileen Rose and The Holy Wreck and The Vagaband. Playing the Moonshine Bar from 7pm-9.45pm tonight are Andrew Duhon, Stephen Kellogg and Dennis Ellsworth. Playing the Peacock Cafe tonight from 5pm-11pm are Mad Staring Eyes, Troubadour Rose, Paul McClure, The Cedars, Case Hardin and Redlands Palomino Co.

Playing The Green tomorrow from 11am-6pm are Oliver Daldry, Jason Serious, The Rainbow Girls, Redlands Palomino Co, The Carrivick Sisters, I See Hawks in LA, The Good Lovelies and Old Man Luedecke. Playing the Tack Room tomorrow from 6.30pm-10pm are Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Jason Serious, The Henry Brothers and Ragged String Band.

Playing the Moonshine Bar tomorrow from 6.30pm-10.20pm are Leeroy Stagger, Jack Day, Richie Lawrence, Kris Dollimore and Cherry Lee Mewis. Playing the Barn tomorrow from 11am-11.30pm are Porchlight Smoker, Grace & Tony, Trevor Moss/Hannah Lou, David Latto, Hallelujah Trails, Phil Lee, Hatful of Rain, The Black Feathers, Neil Innes, Dan Raza and The Shrouds, Ruth Moody, Feral Mouth, Tina C and Leeroy Stagger. Playing the Peacock Cafe tomorrow from 6pm-11pm are Danny George Wilson, Danni Nicholls, Andrew Duhon, Anne Coogan, Dennis Ellsworth and Mindy Smith.

Playing the Barn on Sunday from 10.30am-2.50pm are The Rabble Chorus, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Grace & Tony, The Rainbow Girls, Polly and The Billets Doux and The Carrivick Sisters. Playing the Peacock Cage from 11.25am-1pm are The Henry Brothers and The Ragged String Band. Playing the Moonshine Bar from noon to 1.50pm Sunday are Jason McNiff, Dennis Ellsworth and Andrew Duhon.

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