Saturday, 3 March 2012

Wembley 2012 Country Music Festival Reviews

Wembley 2012 Country Music Festival Review & Highlights

Read and Listen to the Festival reviews by Douglas McPherson, Lee Williams (plus Ali Isabella interview), Jim Duncan. Watch the Youtube Festival highlights 

The International Festival of Country Music at Wembley Arena was worth reviving   - 4 STARS out of 5

Reba McEntire
Wembley Arena
Courtesy XTF
 When the promoter Mervyn Conn proposed a country music festival at Wembley in 1969, the British music industry laughed. Country was old hat, they claimed, and he wouldn’t get a big enough crowd to fill his living room.
Conn proved his critics wrong. Televised throughout the 70s and 80s, the now legendary Wembley festivals grew into a four-day annual pilgrimage that drew country fans from all over the UK. They made household names of Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Don Williams.

With many of the stars of country’s golden age now departed, Conn’s decision to revive his festival this year, after a 21-year absence, appeared almost as risky as his decision to stage the first one 40 years ago.
Headliner Reba McEntire, for example, is huge is America, with 70 million album sales to her name. But country is so underexposed on this side of the Atlantic that her repertoire is almost unknown to the wider British public.

The British media’s lack of interest in country, however, has always belied a healthy grassroots following. And with a mixture of aching ballads and punchy blues-rock, the current Queen of Country reigned over an adoring audience that was soon dancing in the seats and up and down the aisles.

Lonestar, remembered for their big international hit Amazed, got an even bigger welcome than McEntire. For much of their set they sounded like a rock band, even finishing with The Beatles’ Get Back. But with the moving ballad I’m Already There they reminded us of country’s greatest strength: picture-painting, story-based, tear-your-heart-out lyrics that are the most direct and lucid in popular music.

Elsewhere, the 10-hour show celebrated country’s great variety of sub genres. Asleep at the Wheel provided slick western swing, Ricky Skaggs served bluegrass and Jo-el Sonnier added a fiery shot of Cajun rock.

Veteran crooner George Hamilton IV was a link to the very first Wembley country festival while young Briton Tim McKay proved capable of making the loud and rocking yet still lyrically clever country currently in vogue in Nashville.
Perhaps the most memorable moment found 23-year-old Texan Will Banister – who was almost the only man in the arena wearing a cowboy hat – wowing the crowd with a sublimely straightforward revival of Lovesick Blues. Sixty-three years after the father of country music, Hank Williams, yodelled his way through the same song, it was proof that country music, like rock’n’roll, will never die.

SOURCE - Daily Telegraph  By Douglas McPherson 6:16PM GMT 27 Feb 2012

2  )  Lee Williams CMR Nashville  Review & Interview (2 March 2012)
Ali Isabella
Wembley Arena
Courtesy XTF

That’s a great song from Ricky Skaggs called “Can’t Shake Jesus” from an album called Mosaic that came out about 18 months ago but he sang it at Wembley and it really went down well and so did ALL the other acts that appeared. Reba McEntire was excellent, Asleep At the Wheel, you had Lonestar who came back with a vengence with Richie [McDonald] being back in the band, just so much going on.
There was a great crowd, great day, it started off about 2:30pm, the football was next door!
Lots of people enjoyed themselves, great acts all the way from 2 o’clock.

Ali Isabella Interview

This is an edited version of an interview with Ali Isabella conducted by Lee Williams for CMR Nashville (Europe’s #1 Country Internet Station) which was recorded in a Wembley hotel just 2 days before Ali performed at The International Festival of Country Music held at the nearby Wembley Arena on Sunday February 26, 2012!

Ali talks about her time in the UK and preparations ahead of her big day. They discuss her new single release “What If”  which has been included on the promotional Hotdisc #159 (March 2012) and tracks from her brand new album SAY YOU'LL BE MINE.
Tracks played on the show include “What If”, “Say You'll Be Mine”, “So Free” and “New York City Country Girl”

3 )  Jim Duncan Wolverhampton Community Radio Review (Thurs, 1 Mar 2012)
Country Radio presenter and WOLVESTOCK festival promoter Jim Duncan and Steve Morris from the show "Roots And Branches” chat briefly about the festival on WCR FM 101.8 (Wolverhampton Community Radio)  

Steve Morris - So does this mean though if this is the Wembley Festival again, does this mean we will see the resurgence of the big and good country music festivals, some big acts coming across?
Jim Duncan – No
Steve Morris - Right, well that a short answer!

Jim Duncan – Quite frankly NO. It was a big festival, half of Wembley was sheeted off, it wasn’t used. VERY UNDER SOLD. 
Steve Morris - In a sense unless you’ve got a long memory Reba McEntire is not a name to excite a kind of mass festival going audience.

Jim Duncan – That’s the big problem, it’s been 20 years since the Wembley festival stopped and he [Mervyn Conn] went to start them again and he went back to all the old acts that he knew he, didn’t ask anyone what the new current acts were….
To LISTEN to Jim's review and the full dialogue listen here:


YouTubey  Wembley 2012 Country Festival

Wembley Hightlights of Reba McEntire, Lonestar, Ricky Skaggs, George Ducas, Tim Mckay, John McNicholl, Raymond Froggatt, Asleep at the Wheel, Will Banister, Ali Isabella Filmed by Country Music Radio - Youtube

Ali IsabellaOut of Tune Guitar” –   YouTube

Also in Ali's setlist – “ What If", "Boy Next Door" and closed with "NYC Country Girl"
xx  "Thank you so much to all the fans and Wembley Arena, had the time of my life!! said Ali

Tim McKay and The Pauper Kings - “Somedays You Gotta Dance” (Dixie Chicks – writers Troy Johnson, Marshall Morgan), “Goodbye Would Go”, “Heart Wide Open”  -  YouTube
BUY / SAMPLE Tim’s album Chasing Dreams on

George Ducas “Every Time She Passes By” –   YouTube
Also in his set he played “Lipstick Promises”

Will Banister    Wembley Arena
Courtesy XTF
Will Banister
“Turned Her Onto Country” –   Youtube

Will’s set also included  “Lovesick Blues” and “You Remind Me”
BUY / LISTEN to Will’s album on

David Allan chats with Will Banister between acts at the Wembley Festival -  YouTube

Lonestar “What About Now” –  YouTube
Set also included “I’m Already There”, “Amazed”, “With Me”, the Beatles cover “ Get Back” and cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis”

Asleep at the Wheel “It's A Good Day” –   YouTube

Ricky Skaggs  “Heartbroke”, “Pig in a Pen” -   YouTube

Reba McEntire at the International Festival of country Music Filmed by Country Music Radio

“The Greatest Man I Never Knew” –    YouTube
 “Turn On The Radio” –   YouTube
Reba McEntire “You Lie” –  YouTube
“Why Haven't I Heard From You” –    YouTube    ( courtesy of Londonbaby) 
“Because Of You” –   YouTube    ( courtesy of Londonbaby)  Tremendous!

Reba McEntire Wembley Setlist included :
 “All the Woman I Am” , “Till You Love Me”, “Whoever’s In New England”, “Does He Love You”, “Nothing to Lose” (From album KEEP ON LOVING YOU), Can’t Even Keep the Blues”, “You Lie” , “Why haven't I Heard From You” “Because Of You”, “I’m A Survivor” , “Take It Back”, “Is There Life Out There”, “Somebody’s Chelsea”, “The Fear Of Being Alone”, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”, and “Turn On The Radio”

Reba – Belfast and Zurich photos  @

SOURCES - YouTube , CMR Nashville, WCR FM 101.8

PHOTOS - XTF ( ) photographed the landmark event at Wembley. Like their page and see a selection of the event’s photos are on the XTF Facebook page

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