By Rob Dickens.
Outlaw Country Cruise 2017
Not only was this my second ever boat cruise, it was literally two hours after my first!
I had signed up for the Outlaw Country Cruise for two reasons – it boasted a very, very attractive line-up and it sailed on the same boat the day that my first cruise, Cayamo, ended.
You can read my report on Cayamo HERE which includes information about the ship, cruise inclusions, on board facilities, the music spaces, merchandise etc.
Sirius XM is a satellite radio station which has multiple channels of music, news, sport and talkback. Outlaw Country is one such station and is a particular favourite of mine which I listen to avidly when I am travelling by road in the USA. It has an impressive line-up of hosts including Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Steve Earle, Elizabeth Cook, Johnny Knoxville, Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon), Paula Nelson (daughter of Willie) and Roger Alan Wade (lead singer in Austin’s country swing band Hey Bale!).
The channel’s musical format is bed-rocked on past ‘outlaw’ country artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Gram Parsons and Merle Haggard but now embraces rock, Americana and folk as well. It is the place to hear Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Rodney Crowell and Chris Stapleton.
Sixthman, which manages music cruises, has teamed up with Sirius XM to host the Outlaw Country Cruise with this 2017 edition being its second (and sold-out) event with 2,400 guests on board.
The Norwegian Jade sails for five days. It leaves Tampa on the west coast of Florida and sails out through Tampa Bay into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. There is a day stop-over one on the Mexican island of Cozumel.
Blackberry Smoke, The Mavericks, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Billy Joe Shaver, Wanda Jackson, Jessi Colter, Shooter Jennings, Joe Ely Band, Carlene Carter, Chris Knight, Dale Watson and his Lone Stars, Ray Benson, Old 97’s, Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale, Drivin’ N Cryin’, The Secret Sisters, Supersuckers, Bottle Rockets, The Mastersons, Rosie Flores, Jesse Dayton, Scott H. Biram, Laura Cantrell, Heybale!, Dallas Wayne, Roger Alan Wade, Mojo Nixon, Buick 6.
Plus there were other sessions – some health related such as Thai Chi classes with Lauderdale. Mostly though, the extra-curricular activities were just plain fun (if you are into that sort of thing) with Dale Watson’s ‘Chicken S*#t Bingo, Mojo Nixon’s belly flop competition, whiskey tasting with The Bottle Rockets and Ray Watson’s Texas Hold’em poker tournament in the ship’s casino.
(Billy Joe Shaver did not make the boat. Rumours were that he arrived at Tampa, had a fight with his band and fled the scene!)
Essentially there are live sets on almost all the time. Also available are Sirius XM Sessions at sea with radio hosts interviewing performers, sharing songs in the round (one at a time), a tribute show (Wanda Jackson), guitar talk, you name it.
The Music Highlights
Two cult, energetic alt. country bands who have been together for twenty four years were standouts. From Dallas, Old 97’s played blistering sets and I was thrilled to finally get to see St Louis’ The Bottle Rockets live. No disappointments there.
Steve Earle hosted a songwriter session with Carlene Carter, Joe Ely and Lucinda Williams where each took turns performing a song and talking about their song-writing inspirations. It was an hour that passed so quickly. Earle also showcased some terrific new songs as part of his show with The Dukes.
Elizabeth Cook‘s interview with Rhett Miller from Old 97’s was fascinating. I got two healthy doses of The Mavericks showing their wares with the ‘Sail Away’ show on the Pool Deck and an amazing set with special guests in the Stardust Theatre which included a heady twelve minute cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Us and Them’.
Lucinda Williams’ set was captivating and Rosie Flores rocked the boat with style and flair. Scott H Biram was wildly passionate and confronting.
Smooth to slightly choppy
I must admit to have been a little spoilt being part of the Cayamo experience the previous week where many patrons knew each other well, were knowledgeable, helpful and so attentive. It was unlike any festival experience I have had before. In a way it was like a series of house concerts where everyone
The Outlaw Cruise is more like a party boat and organisers encourage this. The Cruise’s predecessor was the now defunct Lynyrd Skynyrd Cruise and a lot of outlaw patrons liked loud Southern Country rock. In fact, I sensed a duality in the crowd with those rockers attracted to loud and fast rocking outfits like Blackberry Smoke, Supersuckers and Drivin’ N Cryin’. Some T-shirts may have offended and the Rebel Flag was flown on one occasion.
Two cruises back-to-back was a little ambitious in hindsight. There was so much music for the eleven days that brought with it a sensory overload. It was akin to two consecutive AmericanaFests or two JazzFests.
But, hey, can you complain about having too much fun!