If you’ve never heard of Laurel Cove, I beg of you to make a trip to this hidden gem nestled in the hills of Pineville, Kentucky. It’s truly a Kentucky treasure. Also, if you see a festival in Bell County or a show at the Bell Theater, I don’t care who it is, just buy the ticket and take the ride. Your conductor is Mr. Jon Grace and he will not let you down. I make you that promise, whole-heartedly.
I work the night shift at the real job, so our day started a bit later than I wanted, but hopefully the acts I did catch, I’m able to shine a light on their talent and efforts. And if ya missed em, hopefully I can kindly nudge ya into catching a future show. That’s what we’re all about here.
I also want to preface this article, as well as the recap for Saturday, that I had thrown my back out a bit the previous weekend, and I thought I was fine after a chiropractor visit, but I tweaked it again on our way to the main stage, so I didn’t get to cover many folks on the Campfire Stage. So this is my apology to them.
First up for us was Sydney Adams at the Campfire Stage. I would call myself a huge supporter of Sydney. I feel she has what it takes to carve out a long career in music. The Corbin native is great songwriter that happens to have one of the more polished vocals that you could witness on Friday, or Saturday for that matter.
Sydney opened the Campfire Stage and did so to a pretty decent crowd in attendance. She was playing the Stage much earlier than the Corbin native deserved, but that was due to the fact that she had a headlining gig at the Austin City Saloon in Corbin later on Friday night. I assure ya, she’ll climb several spots on next year’s poster.
As for Sydney’s set, it was wonderful. Just Sydney and her guitarist Dustin. Alone on the stage, the duo performed several of her more popular songs in “Always Home To Me”, “Half Empty” (Which she wrote for a friend around 16), “Never Was”, and my personal favorite in “Bringing Her Memory Home.”
She dropped some big news during her set. Her new EP will hopefully be available by the end of Summer. Sydney spilled the beans on an upcoming cover as well. She’s been performing the Lorde hit, “Royals”, for quite some time. Sydney said it best, “This ain’t a country song, but it is when I sing it.” I prefer original songs, but I’m 100% behind this one, as it showcases another side of the artist Sydney can be.
We were also treated to two brand new songs that will be on the aforementioned EP. “Sinners Like Me” and (You can watch above) and “A Lot Like You” could be hits on the radio right now. Having Sydney on your radar is highly recommended.
When the Laid Back Country Picker declared that 49 Winchester were the band in the land, you best believe these West Virginians became a much bigger blip on my radar. I waited patiently to see these fellas and I gotta tell ya, Laid Back ain’t wrong. These fellas were a blast and conjured up a spirit similar to our beloved Kentucky Headhunters. Southern rock blended with a soulful, passionate delivery gets me every time.
Highlights for me included my personal favorite in “Get Clean”, they tossed in some of Waylon’s “Waymore’s Blues”, “Long Hard Life”, and “The Wind” for good measure. If I’m 100% honest, these fellas are a live band. Their live performance blows their recordings away. So yeah, go see 49 Winchester. You can thank us later.
Mike And The Moonpies were up next. These fellas made the trip from Austin, Texas and delivered an incredibly well-polished performance. Being a proud Kentuckian, you gotta know that the three Gary Stewart songs held a special place in my heart. “Gold Barstool”, “Smooth Shot Of Whiskey” and “Bottom Of The Pines” were food for my soul.
A few other favorites included “Beaches Of Biloxi”, “Smoke Em If You’ve Got Em” and “Steak Night At The Prairie Rose.” And I REALLY their version of the Fastball hit, “The Way.” I even spotted Arlo McKinley’s drummer Aaron Cordell singing along beside the stage during that one.
One of my personal favorite moments of the entire weekend was during Mike and the Moonpies performance. I was watching this little lady that knew every word to “You Look Good In Neon.” I’m assuming it was her Dad that joined her dance to dance like nobody was watching. Music is a tremendous medicine y’all. Goodness I’ve missed live music so dang much!
Next up, was Morgan Wade. This young lady has taken the world by storm with her recent debut album titled ‘Reckless.’ And rightfully so, the album is an absolute gem. I first saw Morgan perform at Kickin It On The Creek back in 2019. She has grown exponentially as an artist and in popularity. I fully expected a lot of folks to be excited to see her, but even I underestimated how many folks were fans and ya know what? It was BEAUTIFUL!
Shit, people were yelping and hollering at Morgan’s soundcheck. That was a totally unexpected, yet equally awesome thing to witness!
Morgan wasted no time getting to the good stuff. She hit us with “Last Cigarette”, “Don’t Cry”, and “Northern Air”, but my personal favorite Morgan Wade song and performance was of “Matches And Metaphors.” That song is the song that made me a Morgan Wade fan. She had a video on YouTube, which has been removed, of her performing that one and I absolutely wore that video out.
She shared with us that her 10-year-old sister shared “Angry Heart” with her friends at Sunday School, which as Morgan put it, “That didn’t go over too well.” Lol
“The Night” happens to be the first single Morgan released. It was surprisingly omitted from ‘Reckless’, but trust me when I say the crowd knew it. They knew it very well. There were several songs that had a choir of patrons singing along during the night, but “The Night” took that honor early, but more on that in a bit.
During an abbreviated acoustic set, Morgan delivered “Until I Met You.” If you need a starting point to understand who Morgan Wade is as an artist, here ya go. That last line and abrupt stop hits so damn hard. It’s just so damn incredible, and that is exactly why “Until I Met You” was one of my favorite performances from Wade on Friday night.
One very unexpected turn was a cover song that flew in from left field. While “Suspicious Minds” may have been made most famous by The King, I dug the hell outta the Morganified version. Aaaaaannd, I may or may not be dancing along in my mind as I write this.
I mentioned earlier about “The Night” being the loudest sing-a-long, and that was 100% true….until “Wilder Days.” Sheeeeeweee! That was awesome.
Recently reunited Sundy Best closed out Friday night. The duo had quite the run before taking a break, and if Friday night was any indication, the boys are back and the fire they started is red hot. As my friend Chris Lowe posted on Facebook, “Sundy Best at Laurel Cove Music Festival 2021 with the frogs and crickets in the background… the kinda shit to set your soul right. Shouts to my Bell Co Good Ole Boys. #blessed” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The lifelong friends in Sundy Best have created some of the most memorable music to come out of Eastern Kentucky and the crowd was ready and raring to give them the love they deserve.
Now, I was lucky enough to catch a full set in their hometown of Prestonsburg recently, you can check that rather in-depth article out here. So rather than be redundant, I’m going to hit a few of the highlights from their Friday night performance for ya.
After they busted out of the gate with “Smoking Gun,” I was mesmerized by their performance of”Mountain Parkway.” I grew up traveling that road a lot and it was usually a bad thing. As it seemed the only times we traveled that road was to see a cancer doctor for my Grandparents. While the song isn’t that heavy, it always hits me hard and I love it.
The boys tore through the likes of “Until I Met You”, before they went to “Swarpin” and a fightin! That’s the moment where the beers kicked in for the crowd. Hoopin and a hollerin ensued and the party was on like ole Donkey Kong!
After a fantastic performance of “Southern Boy”, the fellas gave me the song that I’ll forever be waiting for every single time in”Hindman.” I can’t really pinpoint why I love that song, outside of spending a lot of time growing up in Knott County, but it ALWAYS fills my heart with joy.
Just as it was in Prestonsburg, we were treated to the new tune “Walk By Faith.” I know that Sundy Best has recorded new music, so I’m hoping we get that sooner than later. As I mentioned in my Prestonsburg article, this song was written around the Bible verse II Corinthians 5:7. For we walk by Faith, not by sight. It’s a rather zen moment live and I’m looking very forward to hearing the recorded version.
The last song that we watched was “Lost In A Daydream.” That one was also new, but we decided it best to get a head start on Saturday and left before I could really form an opinion. BUT, I did like what I was able to hear.
There ya have it. Friday is one for the ages now, but just wait until you get a load of Saturday. The rain definitely dampened our clothing, but it darn sure didn’t dampen our spirits.
This guy gives two thumbs up and a massive smile for the Laurel Cove Music Festival! Thanks for stopping by and feel free to join us on social media. We’re friendly folk, promise!