In the absence of the cancelled Sydney leg of the Out On The Weekend festival it was up to the sideshows to show us what we were missing out on. What we got was a masterclass in playing from the OOTW house band led by the charismatic Robert Ellis. Their first set was backing Alabama’s Shelly Colvin who showed she can write some fine sad songs that ranged from slow strums to more upbeat pop-leaning numbers such as Wishing Well. The band provided a big sound around her songs with some particularly exquisite guitar interplay from Ellis and Kelly Doyle.
Jonny Fritz last played here with just fiddle and guitar backing so it was a treat to hear his songs fleshed out with the power and dynamics of a full band. Fritz’s access point is his humour and endearing personality yet he backs it up with great songwriting. With songs about everyday ailments, social climbers and the infamous Stadium Inn he charmed the audience, shifting the Sunday night mood to a Saturday night glass-clinking knees-up. The band fed off his infectious enthusiasm, trading licks with wide grins and laying down tight honky tonk rhythms.
Sam Outlaw seemed slightly out of place after the japery of Fritz which wasn’t helped by some early sound issues. That was quickly forgotten though as he showcased songs from this year’s Angeleno album. He looks like the all-American boy in cowboy hat, denim and bolo tie and he came across as workmanlike at times but there’s no denying the craft to his writing, bringing clever melodic turns to tried and true subject matter. Songs like Who Do You Think You Are and Hole Down In My Heart in particular benefited from the house band’s backing. A jaw-dropping solo song from Josh Hedley and a George Strait cover with Fritz, Colvin and Ellis provided the icing on the cake for an entertaining night of exemplary playing and Americana music.