It happens every time I go to a music festival. Every. Single. Time. It’s also one of my top reasons for going to festivals—there’s always that artist that jumps out at me and makes me ask, “why am I just learning about this person? Why don’t I have these songs on repeat at home?” At the Nashville Boogie Weekender, I was simply blown away by the honky-tonk twang and outlaw lyrics of the United Kingdom’s Sarah Vista.
Vista performed twice during the Weekender and I caught her set in the front room at the Nashville Palace, a setting that presents challenges to artists–it’s a barroom with open air access to the patio. I was immediately struck by Vista’s ability to control the distractions with a voice that rose above the clink of glasses and a stage presence that demanded attention. And about that voice…it was the perfect match for her murder ballads; she lured us with tender inflection and then shut us down with a Johnny Cash growl. Chills ensued when she ripped into her delightfully throwback, deeply ominous, and downright infectious song “I Wish You Hell.” It’s no wonder the song is being featured on the soundtrack for the upcoming spaghetti western The Price of Death.
Her set featured her own often uptempo driving acoustic guitar and the thumping upright bass from “Sheriff” Emma Goss, and joined by members of the Doggone Honkabillies to fill out the band. Together they created a sound suitable for dusty saloons and cowboy juke-joints, frequently eliciting foot stomping and enthusiastic drover-esque hoots from the room.
In addition to the great performance, Vista embraced the festival and the outlaw country style, and had fun doing it all. Even after the show, I spotted Vista taking in many of the other artists’ shows, always dressed to impress with a vast Western wardrobe. She is immersed in her craft and the culture of traditional country music which was reflected in her performance.
I have listened to her works countless times since returning from the Nashville Boogie Weekender and every time I return to her fabulous show at the Nashville Palace. I recommend that everyone saddle up with a few of Sarah Vista’s dark and twangy songs and enjoy the dusty dance-worthy trail.