The Music Rules Fest is a partnership between the Mountain Arts Center and Capture Kentucky. It is an event that I am incredibly proud of and that’s exactly why this article has been so difficult for me to write.
The City of Prestonsburg now has control of the Jenny Wiley Amphitheatre, which is located in the gorgeous Jenny Wiley State Park. They have allowed the Mountain Arts Center to run the venue as a sister venue to the 1044 seated theatre at the MAC.
The city has begun a remodel of the venue and there are plans to further improve the amphitheater. Restoring it to it’s once prominent place in the community.
The Music Rules Fest was developed to be a genre-less music festival that promises good music for good people. A simple concept that we felt could grow and become a tradition while growing into a Kentucky destination music festival.
That is still the plan and one that the city has assured us will continue. Now to the difficult part of this article. Mother Nature was not very cooperative and she really trimmed the attendance numbers for an outdoor show. That is a definite chance you take with any outdoor performance.
From top to bottom, the production, the lineup, the food, the staff were nearly flawless. We worked incredibly hard to put on a great show and I truly feel that we did. What has bothered me most is that I do not enjoy disappointing people. The MAC has been incredible to work with. The City gave the green light. The lineup were all friends. Yet, the one thing we had no control over, kept many folks away. That hurts my pride. That’s left a bruise and it took some time to deal with that internally. That’s the price you pay when your passion runs as deep as mine. That all becomes my fire to make next year even bigger and better.
The lineup we put together included Waylon Nelson, Chelsea Nolan, Sean Whiting, Joslyn & The Sweet Compression, Leah Blevins and Cincinnati’s Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound. There were many, many highlights from Saturday, so with this article, I’m going to condense those for those in attendance, while adding a few videos for those that sided with Mother Nature.
Waylon Nelson delivered a very well rounded set that tilted towards the singer-songwriter side of things, but Kristen Preston helped tilt that scale towards the bluegrass side of things. By the time Waylon reached the end of his set, his passion was echoing all across Dewey Lake and it was a joy to watch.
Y’all know we love Chelsea Nolan around here. Chelsea is one of the most humble, funny, talented and genuine people you could ever call a friend.
Chelsea performed acoustically as well, as she had another gig to head to once her performance was over. She delivered as only she can. Taking time to fill you in on the details of the hows and whys a particular song exists. Belting out many familiar songs and even a few new ones.
Of the new songs, “Like That” was my favorite. Much like the days when I first heard “Build A Fire” and “Big Bear’s Den”. “Like That” is a different side of Chelsea and you will love it.
Check out her brand new song “Camel Light Blues” below:
Chelsea was the first of a trifecta of voices that I had often found myself wishing internally, and even a little selfishly, to hear one after the other. Next up on the Jenny Wiley stage was Sean Whiting. Sean recently released his new album, ‘High Expectations’, which we were able to premiere here.
If you’ve never heard Sean Whiting’s powerful voice, be warned it is a force of nature. Think Chris Stapleton from the Jompson Brothers era, bathed in some Howlin’ Wolf and topped off with a garnish of Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers, that’ll get ya close. Actually, don’t take my word for it, listen in yourself!
Sean’s band was rounded out by the one and only guitarist David Prince, bassist Chris Justice and Mr. Hayden Miles on the drums. Sean performed a mix of his older songs and many from the new album. Hearing “Melody”, “Oh Well”, “Just The Same” and “Harvest The Moon” were fantastic. We were even treated to a few covers, of which, my favorite was “Red House.”
The next voice that completed the trifecta was none other than Joslyn Hampton. Joslyn and her band, The Sweet Compression, absolutely captivated everyone in attendance. There’s a reason that I refer to Joslyn as the “Queen of Kentucky”, if you were there, you’ll need no explanation, if not well, your loss honestly. Lol
Joslyn and her Stepfather Marty Charters put together Joslyn & The Sweet Compression. Marty has been on the road for a long time playing with Blues Legend Junior Wells and Cincinnati’s H-Bomb Ferguson. He is defintely no slouch when it comes to playing and songwriting. Joslyn though is the unquestionable star of the show.
Her playfulness, confidence, talent and smile were always on full display, but it’s that powerful voice that DEMANDS your attention. Surrounded by some of the best musicians in the region, it is only a matter of time before the world takes notice of this juggernaut musical act.
In fact, Billboard just debuted their new animated video for “What Did You Think Was Gonna Happen.” With tracks like “Honey, Be”, “Love On The Double” and their powerful cover of The Rolling Stones classic, “Gimme Shelter”, the world will have no choice but to know the name of Joslyn and The Sweet Compression.
Taking the stage after Joslyn isn’t the most enviable task, but for Nashville transplant and Sandy Hook, Kentucky native Leah Blevins she was happy to step up and continue an absolutely wonderful day and night of music.
Leah took a different approach, she stripped down her set to showcase her songs. Accompanied by a second guitarist, Leah took the time the give us some great insight into her music. Treating it as a bit of a VH1 Storytellers vibe.
It was obvious that Leah was happy to be back in the mountains and her voice was especially strong on this day. Which it better be if you’re stripping down the set and fighting the guitar going out of tune due to the moisture. For me, I describe Leah this way, if Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton were to have a magical, mystical child, it would be Leah.
She has the sweetness and fragility in her voice to deliver like Emmylou, but she also possesses the ability to take her voice to great heights with soaring melodies and an authentic accent much like Dolly.
My personal favorite track from her set was “Beautiful Disaster.” The song is written about a marriage that doesn’t quite go as planned. It was hauntingly beautiful. She also threw in her version of Neil Young’s classic, “Heart Of Gold.” I’ve said it many times, but there is something incredible that happens when an artist returns home to perform. This was yet another wonderful moment that I’ll cherish.
Closing out the show were Cincinnati natives Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound. If you enjoy your country sad, then pull up a chair, because you’re about to meet your new favorite artist.
I’ve been an Arlo fan for a couple of years now. His tone and cadence are second to none and having seen him perform before, I knew exactly what we were getting into.
So I thought. The rain settled in during Arlo’s set and most of the remaining folks headed up top to the covered area. The old saying goes that even chickens have enough sense to get out of the rain and that proved true for most. Thankfully though, I just gave in and let the environment become a part of the show and what happened was honestly one of the most beautiful performances that I have ever witnessed.
Arlo was as open as I have ever seen him. He invited those in the rain to come sit on the stage. While no one took him up on his offer, it gives you great insight into just how unique and wonderful his performance turned out to be. He also invited everyone to party with him afterwards and kept his word. Ya just never know what to expect at some shows.
While we all love the songs with the full band, the real magic happens when it’s just Arlo and keyboardist David Faul onstage together. Much like his buddy Tyler Childers, whose voice is perfectly complimented by Jesse Wells fiddle playing during songs like “Lady May”, Arlo’s sadness matches up in a stunningly brilliant way when David Faul is driving the bus and tickling those ivories. Performances like “A Song Is Born” and “Bag Of Pills” are as captivating and as beautiful, albeit somewhat tragic, as you’ll ever witness, and we had the added beauty of being in the rain. It was simply incredible and I am truly sorry that so many missed such a beautiful thing.
Arlo delivered many great songs, new and old. Set staples like “This Damn Town,” “Waiting For Wild Horses, “I’ve Got Her,” and my personal favorite “Time In Bars” were included, but there were several new tracks that should be included on the new album ‘Die Midwestern’ releasing later this year. Like I started this section, if you like your country music sad, Arlo is your huckleberry. He’s tremendous at what he does. He’s put himself through hell, lived every single word he sings and that’s exactly why his music connects with so many. Authenticity is by far the most compelling aspect to Arlo and his music.
So go on, buy yourself a ticket to a show and thank us later. We will actually have him on another of our shows on Saturday June 22nd. Our Cinder & Smoke Fest will be held in Jackson, Kentucky at Thatcher’s Downtown. That lineup is also STACKED! We’ll have Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound, Magnolia Boulevard, Laid Back Country Picker, Short & Co., Chelsea Nolan, Eric Bolander, Rhyan Sinclair AND T.A. Clayton. Tickets are just $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
So come hang out and enjoy some awesome food and music with us! You can pick up your tickets here if you’d like. See ya soon!