Why Johnny Cash would have loved Cash Back In Fife

“Maybe my daft wee idea wasn’t so daft after all” said Dean Owens as he wrapped up the first ever Cash Back In Fife festival.

Monday, 9th March 2020, 12:21 pm
Cash Back In  Fife, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - songwriters' circle with Dean Owens, Hannah Rose Platt and Rab Noakes (PIc: Cath Ruane)
Cash Back In Fife, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - songwriters' circle with Dean Owens, Hannah Rose Platt and Rab Noakes (PIc: Cath Ruane)

The Edinburgh singer-songwriter’s notion to celebrate the Fife links of the Man In Black and his remarkable musical legacy created arguably one of the most enjoyable events of 2020.

It brought a host of fans into Aberdour, and the venue, the Woodside Hotel, buzzed with glorious music and chat across the weekend.

There were gems to be found in every set as musicians of the calibre of Owens, Rab Noakes and Fay Fife were joined by performers rooted in Americana, while Ian Rankin added another dimension as he brought the story and lyrics of Jackie Leven – an all-too forgotten Fifer- vividly to life.

Cash Back In Fife festival, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - Fay Fife, Countess of Fife (Pic: Cath Ruane)

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    The event kick-started on Friday with a smashing set from Martha Healy and Al Shields whose easy-going style set the tone.

    They were followed by Owens and The Celtabilly Allstars which comprised his former Felsons bass player, Kevin McGuire, guitarist Craig Ross, and fiddler, Amy Geddes.

    Owens spoke of his times in Nashville and his own Cash-inspired album, Cashback, – from where the festival drew its title – in a set which picked some choice tracks from his own back catalogue. and culminated in a joyous rendition of Walk The Line.

    An encore of Hurt was every bit as moving a Cash’s cover from his final album.

    Ian Rankin on stage

    Saturday’s afternoon slot saw Ian Rankin take to the stage with a handful of CD covers, all from the late, great Jackie Leven, the celebrated singer-songwriter Fife seems to have forgotten.

    Leven started out as a folk singer before forming new wave band, Doll By Doll. He too discovered the joy of Cash’s music later in life, bringing this set full circle.

    Next year marks the tenth anniversary of Leven’s death at the young age of just 61. Rankin, who collaborated and performed with him, brought his turbulent but richly creative story to life – one that hopefully inspired more people to seek out his music.

    Saturday night’s songwriters’ circle was the sort of gig where you sit back and simply enjoy the music.

    Cash Back In Fife, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - The Marriage on stage (Pic: FFP)

    Owens was joined by another Fife legend, Rab Noakes, plus Hannah Rose Platt, whose debut album earned rave reviews – and it wasn’t hard to see why either.

    Their music and stories were a joy to listen to as they too threaded the inspiration of Cash through their sets while Noakes recalled seeing the great man in concert in the late 60s.

    Cover of the weekend, however, had to go to Americana duo, The Marriage which comprised guitarist Dave Burn, and Kirsten Adamson – daughter of The Skids and Big Country founder, Stuart – on bass.

    They turned Ring Of Fire into a glorious ballad, and it fitted perfectly into a wonderful set.

    Cash Back In Fife, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - Dean Owens and Hannah Rose Platt

    Kirkcaldy’s David Latto joined the Sunday afternoon session, opening with a great solo set of self-penned numbers; again tapping into that relaxed, easy-going feel which was the hallmark of this event both on stage and off.

    But lest anyone get too comfy, the Countess of Fife wrapped things up with a real kick.

    The quartet have been together for over a year or so and, in that time, have evolved into a really tight unit.

    Led by Rezillos legend Fay Fife, and Allan McDowall, from So You Think You’re A Cowboy, they offer up, in their own words “an unholy mix between country and punk” – not to mention some great songs with real drive and energy.

    I’ve seen the Countess several times, and this was the best yet, with Take Me To The Grave a stand-out.

    They also popped in a Rezillos cover, Cutie Doll, as well as an encore to wrap up an excellent weekend of live music.

    Cash Back In Fife, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour - Countess of Fife

    Rab Noakes pretty much nailed it as he ended the songwriters’ circle with the comment: “That was really enjoyable.”

    Indeed it was.

    Cash Back In Fife has tapped into something rather special. Here’s hoping it returns in 2021...