Black Deer Festival, Eridge Park, Kent

June 16 – 18, 2023

Black Deer is mostly billed as the primary UK Americana music festival and generally speaking the artists booked reflect that fact.

But this year, the line-up featured the wonderful US blues artist, Bonnie Raitt. Closing a hugely successful UK tour, Raitt was simply on fire, delivering a fabulous set to a packed crowd. Who says that blues is dying when it clearly touches the hearts and souls of the youngish audience of modern Americana fans at this event?


These days, as expected, Raitt turned out a powerful version of the Americana master John Prine’s ‘Make me an Angel,’ a song that she is fast and surely making her own. Raitt coasted through her set with an excellent backing band and a style and flourish that highlights just why she remains so popular globally.


Leaving stage as dusk arrived, Raitt was followed by Chrissie Hynes and the Pretenders. Another hugely enjoyable set from a band that is surely rooted in rock rather than Americana, perhaps, but still kept the crowd onboard throughout. Hynes voice is simply superb, powerful and commanding.

Our own Elles Bailey also featured with an absolutely superb set delivered with a full band and her usual flair and passion. It’s easy to see why she has been collecting gongs for her music in both the blues and Americana worlds recently with songwriting that challenges boundaries and hits hard packing a hefty punch. The venue was crammed to bursting and the crowd truly loved her and her band and set.

Other notable artists included Americana great, Amanda Shires, a lady with a few Grammy nominations behind her and a fabulous backing band that included a drummer from Glasgow! Brandy Clark also joined the fun, a multiple Americana Grammy winner with a fluid poise and assurance that simply showed just how to do it!

US youngster Amythyst Kiah also delivered a soaring set despite feeling a bit unwell; the crowd sympathized and loved her plucky spirit and powerful voice. Steve Earle turned out a visceral set, as usual, on the closing evening, again, like Raitt, closing a very successful UK tour.

If there is a criticism of any kind about this stellar event, it certainly wasn’t about the weather which was mostly hot albeit humid at times; it must be about the organization which was pretty dire at times – and the long trek from parking areas to the site itself. Otherwise, this is clearly a festival to keep an eye on.

Iain Patience