Sunday 21 January 2018

Queen of Country brings the harvest

The new country royal, Miranda Lambert, and veteran Charley Pride headline the Harvest Country Music Festival

Miranda Lambert has two Grammys, 19 Academy of Country Music Awards and 11 Country Music Association Awards
Miranda Lambert has two Grammys, 19 Academy of Country Music Awards and 11 Country Music Association Awards
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

It's impossible to get away from U2 right now. (Even if you wanted to.) Take Queen of Country herself, Miranda Lambert. She closed her concert last weekend at the Faster Horses Festival in Michigan with a heart-rending rendition of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.

What's more, Miranda was at U2's June 16 concert in Louisville, Kentucky, tweeting afterwards thus: "This changed my life. And my way of thinking. About music & art. About drive & heart. Thank you @U2. I'll never be the same."

Miranda's new album, The Weight Of These Wings, is about, in part, her high-profile divorce from husband Blake Shelton in July, 2015.

As she sings on Use My Heart, "The thought of loving you just makes me sick."

"You have to go through things and you will be stronger," Miranda told me when I interviewed her at her home in Texas in May of this year.

"And help other people through things that they go through."

I asked Miranda was there ever a point in it all when she thought she wasn't going to make it.

"Well, no. I know I'm stronger than that," she answered.

"But there was definitely bad days and good days," she laughed.

Was it healing to get those difficult emotions out of her psyche and into the songs?

"Absolutely. It was really great to be able to do that. Just to say as a songwriter that you can use your pain and all your stories for, like, a therapy session, to basically put it down on paper."

Miranda is, of course, headlining the much-anticipated Harvest Country Music Festival in Westport House, Co Mayo, on August 26 (Nathan Carter plays the Enniskillen leg of Harvest on the following night in Fermanagh.)

The global superstar (well, she has been on the cover of everything from People to Rolling Stone to Elle and has received two Grammys, 19 Academy of Country Music Awards and 11 Country Music Association Awards) is proving a massive draw at the festival.

Nor is it just any festival either (courtesy of promoter Peter Aiken.)

It features more than 40 artists (Charley Pride, Kip Moore, Maddie & Tae, All Our Exes Live in Texas, Jarrod Dickenson, The Shires, Una Healy to name but a very few) performing on four stages, as well as dancing sessions, a food village, market stalls, funfair, full bar facilities, plus camping options that include glamping, campervan facilities and a family camping area.

As well as the new Loretta Lynn herself, Miranda Lambert, I'll also be looking forward to seeing the old Charley Pride himself do his very special thing. (One of my favourite love songs is his 1971 piece de resistance, written by Ben Peter, Kiss An Angel Good Morning.) When you hear him sing those words you are transported back to images of Charley's childhood in 'shotgun house' Mississippi.

"There was a bed over on this side and a bed over on this side, and we'd sleep three and four to a bed," recalled Charley, who was born once upon a time, a long time ago, on March 18, 1934.

"I remember sometimes I'd wake up and my brother's toes were right in my nose. We grew up on a farm, and we all had something to do.

"In the evenings, either me or my brother would go get real dry chips so my mother could start the fire in the morning prior to us going and chopping the cotton… I walked four miles to school and four miles back. That's where I grew up."

Miranda Lambert headlines the 2017 Harvest Country Music Festival, which runs from August 26-27 in Westport House, Co Mayo, and Enniskillen Airport, Co Fermanagh. Tickets: Ticketmaster: www.ticketmaster.ie, 0844 277 4455 (NI), 0818 719300 (ROI). Weekend & day tickets available.

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