Tumbleweed Music Festival 2019: Final Day
The ladies kicked off the midday sets on the final day of the festival. Up first was honky-tonk sweetheart, Tommy Ash. Ash comes to Tumbleweed for the first time from Nashville, TN, but hails from Phoenix, AZ. She has garnered Ameripolitan Music Award nominations each year since 2016. Also, in recent years, she has made “Country Artists You Need to Know” lists for multiple publications. After her performance on Saturday, I can see why. Even in the scorching heat and fighting off food poisoning, Ash looked and sounded flawless. Armed with her Fender guitar, black jumpsuit and signature tan cowgirl hat, she impressed the early crowd with her style of country and honky-tonk sounds like those from “Sinner’s Blood,” “Keeping the House,” and “Sugar in a Bottle.” She kept the crowd going with a few covers in the mix like, Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” Tommy Ash had a great backing band for the festival which includes her husband, Ben Blanc-Dumont, on lead guitar. I encourage you to catch a show whenever you get the chance.
Next on the roster was the immensely talented, L.A.-based honky-tonker, Jaime Wyatt. With style and grace, Wyatt dazzled on the Tumbleweed stage with a set full of her songs from her 2017 album, Felony Blues, a few covers and some new ones from her much anticipated forthcoming album. I Was glad to finally get the opportunity to see her live and it was everything I had hoped for. A few of my favorites from her autobiographical Felony Blues album that she included in her set were “Stone Hotel,” “Your Loving Saves Me,” and “Wishing Well.” Another one that I think she covers beautifully is, Merle Haggard’s “Misery and Gin,” which can also be found on that same album. I’m looking forward to more from her in the near future.
Randall King is a young artist that is making waves in the Texas music scene. I’ve had the chance to see him a few times in the small stage setting, but was really looking forward to seeing him shine on a larger scale. Randall is a great performer that knows how to work a crowd, so I knew he would earn himself new fans with his energetic Tumbleweed debut. Last year, King released his first full length self-titled record which followed up his 2016 EP, Another Bullet. We heard some country ballads that were reminiscent of that classic George Strait sound like, “Mirror, Mirror,” “Takin’ Me a Heartbreak”, and “Keep Her on the Line.” Before the thunderstorms rolled into the La Cygne festival grounds, we also got a dose of some good ol’ Texas dancehall music with “Tuggin’ on My Heartstrings,” “Dent in It,” “Freightline,” and “Her Miss Me Days Are Gone,” to name a few.
After the festival grounds were evacuated in the wake of the storm, we returned back into the stage area in anticipation of the independent southern rockers from Texas, Whiskey Myers. Unfortunately, to stay on schedule, the storm forced the band to cut their set short. Lead singer, Cody Cannon, explained this to the crowd and apologized if we didn’t get to hear our favorite song. He asked the crowd not to take it out on them, as it was out of their control. They didn’t waste any time building up excitement when they opened with hard-rocking “Frogman.” I will say, they gave a dynamic performance, but I would have liked to have seen them cut down on the instrumental runs on of some of their songs to allow for more songs to be included in the set. We did get to hear a couple off of the new self-titled album that is set for a September 27th release. “Die Rockin’,” which Cody Cannon wrote with the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard, spells out the rock and roll lifestyle that artists like them lead. “Die Rockin’” is also their lead-off single for the upcoming album. “Bitch” is another song we heard from the new album. It is performed and penned by guitarist, John Jeffers. They also gave us a good dose of “crowd-pleasers” with “Ballad of a Southern Man,” “Early Morning Shakes,” and “Stone.” Whiskey Myers is catapulting into the stratosphere with larger and larger audiences and high-profile gigs, like opening for the Rolling Stones in Chicago on June 25th. They are hitting the roads hard this year in support of their September album and their show is not to be missed.
While backstage in between sets, the first thing I noticed about The Marshall Tucker Band was their appearance of pure joy. They seemed to truly enjoy being there and that was even evident while they were on stage. They were chatting everyone up backstage while shaking hands and posing for photos. It was really heartwarming. Even though only one original band member remains (lead singer, Doug Gray), I still found myself very star struck in their presence, so I didn’t snap any photos with them. I did chat with their guitarist, Chis Hicks, for a few moments though. The band shot right out of the gate with one of their biggest ballads, “Fire on the Mountain,” from their 1975 album, Searchin’ for a Rainbow. They gave us a performance of greatest hits that was even better than I expected. We were transported back in time with several songs like that of “Heard It in a Love Song,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Highway,” and “Hillbilly Band.” They closed out the set with a crowd-participating rendition of “Can’t You See.” The crowd was singing along and grinning ear to ear. It was a special show to witness.
Headlining the Saturday night stage was the legendary country band, Alabama. The band, originally formed in 1969 by cousins, Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook, didn’t waste much time getting the crowd going. With an extensive catalog of number one hits, they kept rolling through their material and delivered a jam-packed set. As they’ve proved their own longevity with their 50-year career, they kicked off their show with “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.” Every time they would start a song, I would find myself saying, “Oh, that’s my favorite” or “No, this one is my favorite.” To be honest, there is no choosing a favorite Alabama song for me and I’m alright with that. The nostalgia was hard to contain. Everywhere you looked in the crowd, including myself, there were tears of joy and memories. The country love ballads of “The Closer You Get,” “Love in the First Degree,” “Old Flame,” and “Feels So Right” had the audience swaying, singing, and holding on to their friends and partners. The excitement really intensified for songs like “Tennessee River,” “Roll On,” “Dixieland Delight,” and “Mountain Music.” Everyone was foot-stomping, dancing, and truly enjoying themselves. A couple other favorites that made the list were “High Cotton” and “Song of the South.” Although moving slower, the elder band members were still delivering their music in top form. This is one show that I am thankful I got to see; and on their 50th Anniversary tour, no less. I was afraid when they temporarily disbanded in 2003 that I would never get the chance to see them perform live. Fortunately, the great crew with Tumbleweed and Borda Productions packed a stellar lineup that allowed me to cross off some bucket list performances like Alabama and The Marshall Tucker Band.
Following Alabama, The Steel Woods kicked off the late-night performances and made it well worth anyone’s wait. Many Saturday night attendees were single-day ticket holders that came more specifically for The Marshall Tucker Band and Alabama, but those who stuck around, were impressed by one of the best new country/roots rock bands on the road today. Since the release of their sophomore album, Old News, the band walks out to a recorded recitation of Matthew 6:19-21 from the King James Bible given by lead singer, Wes Bayliss’s grandfather. This oration can be heard between “Rock That Says My Name” and the album ending, four-song tribute to a few of their musical heroes who have passed away. The Steel Woods have a lot of great recorded covers and other covers that have simply frequented their live show set list. The band, which is made up of lead vocalist and guitarist, Wes Bayliss, Jason “Rowdy” Cope on lead guitar, Jay Tooke on drums and background vocals, and Johnny Stanton on bass guitar and backgrounds vocals, does an excellent job of making each cover song their own. A few that they performed at Tumbleweed were, my favorite, “Whipping Post” from the Allman Brothers, “Wild & Blue” – made famous by John Anderson, “Let the Rain Come Down” by Brent Cobb, and a couple of Black Sabbath songs – “Hole in the Sky” and “Changes.” Wes and “Rowdy” are a powerhouse songwriting duo who have penned some very poignant songs for each of their albums. I was glad to hear a good mix of tunes from both albums. From the latest album, “Old News” is heavy with historical and social consciousness, but hopeful to the future our country faces. “Blind Lover,” has a lighter, funkier feel to it than many of their songs and it’s about finding an unconditional true love. The message of facing one’s mortality in “Rock That Says My Name” seems to resonate deeply with the fans. Some old favorite originals that we heard from their debut 2017 album were “Better in the Fall,” “Straw in the Wind,” “Whatever It Means to You,” and an obvious crowd-pleaser, “Axe.” There were a lot of whispers as to whether “Axe” made the set list or not. So, when those first guitar notes dropped, the crowd erupted in gratification. These guys are another band that has made big movement in the southern rock and country scene. They have a couple of solid albums under their belt and a dynamic live show that will serve them well on their rise.
Last, but certainly not least, was a band that probably made the biggest impression on me of the entire festival. From Columbia, MO, The Comancheros. I’m not sure how anyone slept after watching that high voltage performance. It’s a damn good thing that no one had to follow that set because it would have been a lack-luster attempt. Those four guys took up every bit of that stage with the most energetic performance I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I have met each of them previously, so I was familiar with their spirited and friendly personalities. However, I quickly learned that I had been missing out on their very entertaining performances. A few original songs they showcased from their 2016 EP and their 2018 LP were “Crazy as Hell,” “Time Machine,” “Saturday Night” and “Shoot Me Down.” They did several rocked-out country covers in addition to their own material. Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time” and Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues” were a couple of those country covers that were given a rock revival. Preceding the arrival of their first full length 2018 album, Heavy & Western, they began building quite the merchandising opportunity with their album name and logo. The members of the band, Tanner Jones with vocals and guitar, Bradley Hutchinson on guitar, Kyle Imgarten on bass and steel guitar, and R. Michael Cook on drums, can always be found mixing in with the crowd – meeting new people, greeting fans, and promoting their brand. Keep an eye out for these fellas as they burn down a stage near you.
All in all, I’d say we had another great Tumbleweed festival. It wasn’t nearly as hot as last year, so I’m sure festival goers enjoyed that. I feel the placement of the stage and vendors had a more accommodating arrangement, but would like to see the port-a-potties a little easier to access if you are on the far side of the stage. The variety of vendors, service, merchandise and food were better. Aside from terracing out the path that we know as “Buzz Kill Hill,” I don’t know how to fix that. I just wish it could be made easier to get around on foot throughout the campground. Of course, with any developing festival, there are always things that could be altered or added. I’m just very pleased to have such a great line up of independent artists converge on middle America every year. I enjoy the diversity of the music from the different regions of the country and different levels of success. Through Tumbleweed, we have the opportunity to enjoy up-and-comers all the way to legends of country music. I would like to thank Borda Productions for all of their hard work throughout the years of putting on Tumbleweed. Also, thank you to the Gutherie’s with The Honky-Tonk Hotel for paving the way to help get fresh new artists to the Midwest and into the festival line up. I also want to thank them and Oklahoma Reviews for the opportunity to provide coverage for the 2019 Tumbleweed Music Festival. I hope to see you all again next year! Be sure to save the dates: May 28-30, 2020. Follow the website and social media pages for ticket information coming soon!
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