Fear not, ’Merica; William Michael Morgan is not Missing. He is chatting to the ladies running the Jamaican food stall on a farm in the North of England, ostensibly deciding between their jerk chicken and a Yorkshire pudding wrap a few stalls over. This is his first time outside of America and the next morning he tells me “pudding where I’m from does not look like that” as I try to explain “it’s a bit like a pancake, but not like your pancakes, more like a flat crepe batter, except not flat…” and then I give up. On reflection a Yorkshire pudding is indeed a strange thing.
Behind him, a pug in a bandana shuffles toward the barbecue and I shuffle away from the temptation of the cowboy boot display.
I have only been at Buckle and Boots festival for a couple of hours and already I am confident that driving up from Somerset to Stockport at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning was the right decision – despite getting to the festival site itself being a bit of a faff. There is a free shuttle from the nearest car park but it only fit five people at a time and while now I know it’s only a 15 minute walk through a stunning park, after dark the local cabs are scarce from that shuttle drop off point so, if you can stand camping, it’s clearly designed to be a stay on site event.
We (me and fellow South Westerner Karl from UK Country Radio) arrived in time for a brilliant young Australian guy, Blake O’Connor sounding far more established than he is and backed by a makeshift band of stellar Brit musicians; Sarah Jory on pedal steel and the lads of Backwoods Creek seamlessly filling in all other roles, as they would for many of the U.S. acts over the weekend.
The strong start continued with a stripped ‘in the round’ session in the smaller ‘paddock stage’ tent. This lunchtime treat featuring Brett Kissel and William Michael Morgan was the reason for our early drive and I felt incredible pride as ‘one of our own’ Gary Quinn kicked things off to the clear admiration of his stateside peers. Amid poignant songs of drinking and heartbreak Brett Kissel’s song comparing women to poker co-written by his drunk uncle is one that’ll stick with me. If that session had been all I heard, the four-hour journey would’ve been worth it.
But the blessings kept coming:
- Being able to enjoy the main stage under cover in the bar with ample seating. Yes, I’m probably getting old – these things matter to me.
- Seeing Jessica Lynn’s energetic performance with a band consisting of her parents, husband and 73-year-old steel player / excellent upstager, Bob.
- Scheduling which meant you could hear at least some of ever single act playing, without needing to work up a sweat. Yep, I’m definitely getting old.
- Meeting Bradley Cooper (or, rather, a bloke named Denis who looks like Bradley Cooper when you’ve been on the cider since noon).
- Lewis Brice and William Michael Morgan crashing Gary Quinn’s set for a Friends in Low Places singalong.
- Mingling with the acts, because they’re also ‘at the festival’ and for the most part hanging around for the full three days rather than shipping in and out for one set.
- Excellent festival toilets complete with country lyric quotes on the stall walls.
- Seeing old, ‘country family’ friends, because the organisers had been good enough to move the festival to this date instead of facing another clash with Black Deer festival and repeating the Great Divide of 2018.
- Finally seeing Gasoline and Matches live – and getting through a bit too much of my cider during their Never Have I Ever drinking game song.
- A Sunday morning tent service with William Michael Morgan leading gospel classic I’ll Fly Away and Kezia Gill’s specially penned song reducing the congregation to a snivelling mess (possibly made extra tearful by hangovers or the Holy Spirit).
Sadly I had to scurry back down south before the Sunday night – where the lineup seemed most to my taste – but here are few festival moments from the 24 hours I got to experience. Watch this space for our coming interviews with William Michael Morgan – covering important things like his view on British bacon – and with Jessica Lynn who’ll be back on a UK tour soon, plus watch video snippets coming up over on our Instagram.