The very first and long awaited Long Road Festival came to Leicester this weekend, and for the tour organizers I think this year would have been crowned a great success.

Just before the festival started it was announced the huge headliner Carrie Underwood wouldn’t be able to perform due to illness after announcing she was pregnant with her first child. Well wishes were sent out from all her fans but an impending disappointed ensued, considering sales of Saturday tickets peaked at the announcing of her performance. Long Road was saved by a truly remarkable set by Aaron Watson who absolutely lit up the stage as headliner.

The festival itself covered a very large area. From mainstage and VIP area, up along some hot food and bar stalls to the Honky Tonk Nashville area, and Front Porch stages Beyond this the Lil Possum stage for little country fans. Unfortunately the VIP area needs work in order to keep extra paying customers happy and returning, but it was a good sized venue for the number of people.

The grounds itself never felt crowded although at times people seemed pack in to very small tent areas to see huge acts such as the remarkable (and-should-have-been-main-stage-star) Lee Ann Womack. The tent was heaving when so much ground and space available. Fortunately we at Nashville Music HQ planned ahead, arrived to the tent an hour before her performance and was happy to be near the front. Hope You Dance sent the crowd in to a sing along frenzy, and a tear or two to the eye.

UK acts are certainly growing in popularity due to festivals such as Black Deer, Long Road and Buckle and Boots, which is great for the UK and country music here. The acts at Long Road perhaps ventured more in to a folky routine than the C2C followers favouring the more modern US country rock songs but some great artists emerged such as Angaleena Presley, Holloway Road and others.

The Shires were amazing like always – but the crown has to be given to Aaron Watson. We couldn’t rate his performance, entertainment value and ability to turn the loss of Carrie’s performance in to a such a positive any higher.

The evenings were rounded off with Buck N Bull playing US country music until the early hours. Looking forward to next year!