A stunning line-up of award-winning songwriters will headline this year’s Southern Fried Festival: Steve Earle & the Dukes, Rodney Crowell, Iris DeMent, Graham Nash, Darrell Scott and Gretchen Peters.
Now in its eleventh year, Perth’s festival of American roots music takes place in Perth Concert Hall, Perth Theatre and other city centre venues from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 July. Tickets for the Southern Fried Festival go on sale on Monday 16 April, with 25% discount for anyone booking five shows or more.
Opening the festival in Perth Concert Hall on Thursday 26 July, is three-time Grammy Award recipient and 11-time Grammy nominee Steve Earle. One of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of his generation; he has released twenty albums - a number of them with his iconic band, The Dukes - and his songs have been recorded by such music legends as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Carl Perkins, Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill and Joan Baez. Always musically adventurous, Steve Earle has crafted folk, blues, rock, country, rockabilly and bluegrass recordings. His diverse collaborators on disc have included The Pogues, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith, The Fairfield Four, The Indigo Girls, Chris Hillman, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson and Shawn Colvin. He is supported by husband-and-wife duo The Mastersons.
Rodney Crowell and Iris DeMent make for a mighty double bill in Perth Concert Hall on Friday 27 July. Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he has moved into elder-statesman territory. His songs have been recorded by country legends such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and George Strait and artists such as Etta James, Van Morrison and Bob Seger. He is a Grammy award winner, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and recipient of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association. His latest album, Close Ties is at once his most intimate record and his most accessible and has been rightly acclaimed as one of his very best.
A huge hit on her previous Southern Fried visit in 2011, Iris DeMent very rarely visits the UK and this is an unmissable chance to see a true American original. Born in 1961 in rural Arkansas, the youngest of 14 children, DeMent first began composing songs at the age of 25 and released her debut album, Infamous Angel, in 1992 to universal acclaim. The stunning My Life and the hard-hitting The Way I Should soon followed to equally positive reactions. In 1999, she recorded four knockabout duets for singer-songwriter John Prine’s In Spite of Ourselves album, earning a second Grammy nomination. 2004’s gospel collection Lifeline was eventually followed by Sing The Delta in 2012, her first album of original material in 16 years. The Trackless Woods, an album of Anna Akhmatova poems set to music was released in 2015 to a very warm reception.
Graham Nash presents An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories on Saturday 28 July in Perth Concert Hall. A two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee - with Crosby, Stills, and Nash and with the Hollies - Graham Nash was also inducted twice into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, as a solo artist and with CSN, and is a Grammy winner. His remarkable body of work began with The Hollies from 1964-68, his contribution to the band included Stop Stop Stop, Pay You Back With Interest, On A Carousel, Carrie Anne, King Midas In Reverse and Jennifer Eccles. The original classic union of Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) lasted only twenty months yet their songs are timeless lightning rods embedded in our DNA, many written by Nash - Marrakesh Express, Pre-Road Downs (written for then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell), Lady Of the Island, Teach Your Children and Our House. Overlapping CSNY, Nash’s solo career debuted with Songs For Beginners (1971), whose Chicago/We Can Change the World and Military Madness highlighted the powerful social conscience that has been a hallmark of his work throughout his career right up to his latest record, 2016’s This Path Tonight. Three early 70’s albums with David Crosby produced many more memorable songs including Southbound Train and Immigration Man before Nash wrote Just A Song Before I Go, a US top 10 hit from CSN’s 1977 reunion album and lightning struck once more on CSN’s Daylight Again (1982), on which Nash penned their final Top 10 hit, Wasted On The Way.
Two more familiar Southern Fried faces, Darrell Scott and Amythyst Kiah play an afternoon gig in the restored and redeveloped Perth Theatre on Sunday 29 July. Darrell Scott is not only one of the finest songwriters in Nashville, but a stunning singer, a phenomenal guitar player and a gifted multi-instrumentalist to boot. His songs have been covered by Suzy Boggus, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Kathy Mattea, Maura O’Connell, Guy Clark and most notably The Dixie Chicks with Long Time Gone. From Johnson City Tennessee, Amythyst Kiah describes herself as a Southern Gothic, alt-country blues singer-songwriter whose influences span decades and diverse styles. Combining rhythm and blues, country and old-time covers alongside startling originals with an angular contemporary twist, she bestrides both the antique and the modern with complete authority. Recent performances in the US, where her star is very much on the rise, include special guest slots with Rhiannon Giddens, Indigo Girls, Old Crow Medicine Show and Valerie June.
Closing the festival in Perth Concert Hall on Sunday 29 July, A Very Special Evening with Gretchen Peters is a one-off show inviting audience requests and featuring the specially formed Southern Fried String Quartet led by Patsy Reid. Another past Southern Fried favourite, Gretchen Peters has accumulated accolades as a songwriter for artists as diverse as Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, The Neville Brothers, George Strait amongst many others and was recently inducted into the hallowed Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. She has also now firmly established herself as an artist in her own right, especially in the UK where her new album Dancing With The Beast, the follow-up to Top 40 hit Blackbirds, is about to cement her status as a major star and one of the finest songwriters on the planet.
Commenting on the unique show, Gretchen Peters said:
“It’s a very special and rare thing for me to play my songs with a string section - there’s a magic that happens with strings that elevates the music like nothing else. And I’m so looking forward to playing fan favourites by request - no doubt it will involve dipping into my back catalogue, which spans thirteen albums and twenty-two years now. It’s going to be a really incredible evening!”
The Salutation Hotel once again plays host to Late and Southern Fried on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 July. The gigs, which start at 10.45pm and carry on into the small hours feature an enticing mix of up-tempo performances and acoustic and intimate songwriter sessions. This year’s bill at the ‘Sally’ features energetic old-time roots from Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys, Caledonian Americana from Perthshire’s Red Pine Timber Co., powerhouse vocals from Southern Fried regular Yola Carter and Celtic spirit and country soul from Dean Owens. Acoustic sessions include Canada’s Meaghan Blanchard’s deeply personal songs and unique signature sound, Seattle-based acoustic musician Eli West, UK Americana duo Worry Dolls and seamless vocal harmonies by The Wandering Hearts. Breakneck bluegrassers Whiskey Shivers are joined by local young talents Longstay for a late-night Salutation gig on Thursday 26 July.
Blue Rose Code and The Bevvy Sisters are joined by community choir Southern Fried Voices for an afternoon show in Perth Theatre on Saturday 28 July.  In the space of only a short few years and three stellar albums, Blue Rose Code, Edinburgh-born Ross Wilson, has gone from the obscurity of an East London flat to being celebrated as a legacy artist whose work stands alone, unsullied by the restrictions of trend. A lusciously harmonious marriage of vintage Americana and classy original songwriting, The Bevvy Sisters’ sound centres on the spellbinding vocal chemistry between singers Heather Macleod, Gina Rae and Louise Murphy. Guitarist David Donnelly completes the core quartet. Both artists will be joined on a few songs by community choir Southern Fried Voices, which is open to anyone over 18 to join.
In addition to this ticketed programme, the Southern Fried Festival will feature smaller gigs in city centre venues, open mic sessions, a free outdoor stage, a daytime acoustic stage and various fringe events plus a generous serving of the famous Southern Fried soul food. These further acts are still to be announced.
Festival director Andy Shearer said:
“I’ve said many times before that the song is the currency of the music that we present at Southern Fried, and this year’s line-up of incredible songwriting talent is without question our best to date, and that’s really saying something! Our headline sextet Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Iris DeMent, Graham Nash, Darrell Scott and Gretchen Peters - would all figure in any comprehensive list of the greatest songwriters alive and we’re very proud to host them in Perth this summer. We always try to ensure our headline shows at Southern Fried are Scottish exclusives and that’s the case once again this year but we’ve gone one better in several cases with our Rodney Crowell/Iris DeMent double bill, Darrell Scott’s afternoon concert at Perth Theatre and Gretchen Peter’s closing show of two halves all being one-off European shows. Elsewhere, our line-up of ticketed shows highlights the current strength of the UK's Americana music scene with Yola Carter, The Wandering Hearts, Worry Dolls and Dean Owens all featuring alongside Perth’s own Red Pine Timber Co. and Longstay, who launch their debut album at the festival. As always, there’s an opportunity for local people to perform with Southern Fried Voices open to all-comers (over 18) to join Blue Rose Code and The Bevvy Sisters in a performance at Perth Theatre.”
For tickets and info for the Southern Fried Festival contact Horsecross Arts box office on 01738 621031 visit www.southernfriedfestival.co.uk. Make sure you are a Southern Fried Facebook, Twitter and Instagram buddy for all the back-stage chat and to share your experiences.