Live Review: Beaufort Water Festival 2021

Posted by Greg on Jul 22, 2021 in Music, Travel |

The future of country music is a 5′8 blonde spitfire who wears a bandanda on her head and hails from Northeast Louisiana. She’s a former barrel racer who moved to Nashville in 2011 in a Thunderbird trailer. She’s sassy, sexy and not afraid to be vulgar. Her name is Lainey Wilson and if her set at Beaufort, SC’s Water Festival last Saturday is any indication she just might be racking up a ton of awards before she’s called it a career.

Opening with the Queen staple “Fat Bottomed Girls” Wilson and her band barreled through a set that was equal parts kinetic, titanic and magnetic. Though she was serving as the opener for ubiquitous 2000s country star Rodney Atkins, Wilson’s set was easily the night’s biggest event. While the set was chock with covers “Little White Church” by Little Big Town, “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson, “Gimme Three Step” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, “Rocky Mountain Way” by Joe Walsh and “9 to 5″ by Dolly Parton, her 10 originals were just as impressive, if not so.

Taken from her latest album Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ the set was concluded with her steadily rising ballad “I Know a Few Things A Man Oughta Know ” (up to #11 on the Hot Country Charts). Anyone who attended the show knew they were in the presence of something special and it was one of those nights where you felt quite privileged to be there. That doesn’t happen every time you see a concert, but for those that attended they were treated to a rare delight.

Atkins’ set was solid and delivered all his hits as well as some inspired choices. A near-perfect cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” preceded the tender ballad “A Little Good News,” a topical song about the lack of positive influence in the evening news beat. A tremendous rendition of Charlie Daniels’ “Long Haired Boy” preceded a band jam and a winning solo version of “Figure Out You.” The song which was co-written with wife and duet partner Rose Falcon lacked the chanteuse’s tender vocals but no matter Atkins and his band found a way to sing it to the heavens. Sturdy, confident and amiable Atkins was the epitome of a headliner. While his shet veered on the shorter side, a 16-song set for a headliner feels a bit thin, there were few if any hiccups and every song was delivered with precision, passion and grit.

The evening started with a muddled albeit intriguing set from relative newcomer Scott Stevens, a recent signee to Verge Records. Utilizing a spoken word, faux hip-hop style his set was brash, overconfident and downright self-congratulating. There were winning moments however. A deft cover of Hank Jr’s “Family Tradition” and Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” outclassed a craggy and rather concussive version of John Michael Montgomery’s timeless classic “Grundy County Auction.

As for the originals, “The Sound of Country Music” an upcoming duet with Justin Moore was engaged, inspired and sounded like the makings of a chart-topper. Ditto for the kiss-off “New Boots” and the sweeetly affecting “Missing You” a song written for his late father. Stevens’ problem is his penchant for veering towards wannabe on cuts like the steamy “Sexy” and the even steamier “Outer Space.” While Stevens is far from the perfect package he does have something potent that will keep fans coming back. Nowhere was that more apparent than on set opener “A Cowboy Walks Into a Bar.” Whether Stevens rises to the ranks of must-see like Wilson or six-time chart-topper like Atkins remains to be seen.

All in all it was a splendid night of live country music in one of the Southeast’s most engaging towns. Previous Beaufort Water Festival headliners include the likes of Craig Morgan, Canaan Smith, Chris Cagle, James Otto, Granger Smith, Aaron Lewis and others. While it remains a must-see event here in the SITH household it gets relatively little press elsewhere. Here’s hoping Wilson’s dynamic set will change that going forward.

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