Farmers' Bash set to make big splash as stars hit Portrush for a beach party
When the inaugural Farmers' Bash was held at the SSE Arena in Belfast in 2017, it signalled a landmark in the annals of country music in the province.
In what was then regarded as a whole new concept, a number of top class acts performed in front of a sell-out crowd against the backdrop of an electric atmosphere.
It was a spectacular and ground-breaking show that underlined the heights to which country music had soared to here.
But the organisers certainly had no intention of resting on their laurels. The 2018 Farmers' Bash was every bit as successful with patrons enjoying another feast of the best in country music.
This year, there is an added bonus for those for whom the Farmers' Bash is a must-see event.
Not only will the show again take place in the SSE Arena come October, but tonight new ground will be broken when a special Farmers' Bash is held on the shore at Portrush.
Yes, Live on the Beach from the East Strand in the north west coastal resort looks all set to prove a winner.
This is a novel idea which appears to have already been eagerly embraced by thousands of country music followers.
At this time of the year Portrush tends to be a mecca for holidaymakers, but tonight people of all age groups from near and far are expected to assemble on the shore for what promises to be a star-studded extravaganza.
The hugely popular Nathan Carter will top the bill and looks set to create a huge impact given the setting.
Over the summer Nathan has performed at numerous high-profile festivals, but he tells me that he is particularly looking forward to tonight's show.
"It's a whole new ball game and I am really excited about it," says Nathan. "Hopefully the weather will remain fine and we will all have a great time.
"There are some terrific artists on the bill who people don't get to see too often, so that should prove an extra bonus for those who go along."
Kiefer Sutherland is best known for his starring role in the TV series '24' and is regarded as a top-class, all-round entertainer who is currently in the throes of a sell-out tour in Britain.
An accomplished performer, he can comfortably handle country and other material which should ensure that he proves a big hit with the crowd.
Indeed, his appearance at Portrush has already triggered considerable excitement, but not to be outdone, talent from Northern Ireland will also be very much to the fore in entertaining what is expected to be a massive crowd.
Lisa McHugh, who stepped aside from the country dancing scene last year in order to give more of her time to other projects, will be among those in the vanguard of what will be a captivating show along with Marty Mone and Una Healy.
Marty is currently performing at festivals and agricultural shows across the country, while Una has already made her name as a superb solo artist following her stint as a member of The Saturdays.
She can expect a warm welcome at Portrush, that's for certain.
Incidentally, Nathan Carter and Cliona Hagan are among the performers who will be on with me today on my outside broadcast from Ederney in Co Fermanagh.
It was initially planned that the broadcast should take place outdoors, but now it will be held in the Community Rooms at St Joseph's Park because of anticipated inclement weather.
Also performing will be Mick Flavin among other exciting acts.
This promises to be lively affair given the calibre of entertainers that we will have performing and I am certainly looking forward to it.
Then on Tuesday we will move on to the Square in Warrenpoint from where we will present another outside broadcast in conjunction with the Maid of the Mournes festival which will again feature a host of well-known artists.
Foster and Allen and Declan Nerney will be among those talking with me and performing and no doubt the craic will be mighty.
Then on Tuesday evening, Country Harmony, Boxcar Brian and yours truly will be performing at a special show in The Square.
My good friend Hugh Murray, he of Diamonds Restaurant fame, is still helping to pull the strings in relation to the popular Maid of the Mournes festival and I have no doubt that Warrenpoint will be en fete for the next few days at least.
Devine hopes to hit right note with new single
Jim Devine, who will be performing with his band in the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh, tonight, looks as if he is about to take a step up in the country music world.
The popular singer from Douglas Bridge near Strabane has just released a new single which he believes is one of the best he has ever recorded and he is hopeful that it will take him to the next tier on the country dancing scene in particular.
Since first going on the road with his own band some years ago, Jim has gained a reputation of being a hugely entertaining singer, someone who puts his heart and soul into everything that he does.
He is always striving to challenge himself not just in terms of the material that he records but also in terms of the performance levels of his band.
He has just introduced a couple of new members to his outfit and is optimistic that this can give the band a new lease of life.
"We have been travelling to a lot of new areas in the country over the course of recent weeks and the receptions we have been given in different places give us great encouragement going forward," Jim tells me, "I am hopeful that this new record will give us another lift. I am always on the lookout for good material to record and I would have great faith in this particular number."
Like most singers, Jim is most at home in the country dancing venues and has tailored his band's repertoire to suit this particular market.
"I love to see people out there enjoying themselves. It helps to bring out the best of us on stage to tell you the truth," he reveals.
All the fun of the fair... and some great tunes
For many years now I have looked forward to the Auld Lammas Fair at Ballycastle.
It is always a spectacular occasion with thousands of people flooding into the north Antrim seaside resort to enjoy the revelry and in the process bring the curtain down on summer.
This year I will be hosting a concert in the Marine Hotel on Sunday, August 25, and hopefully this will set the tone for the Fair itself which is held over the course of the following Monday and Tuesday.
The Fair, of course, has always been synonymous with country music and there will certainly be no shortage of talent on the stage at the Marine Hotel.
My good friend Brendan Shine will be coming to join us and sing some of the songs which have kept him in the limelight over the years.
Brendan is still going strong as a solo artist and when we get together the conversation invariably focusses on subjects like farming and country music.
Also with me on stage at the Marine Hotel will be one of Ireland's favourite ladies of song, the very popular Susan McCann.
She may have taken her leave of the country dancing scene some years ago but Susan, who lives in Newry with her husband Dennis and family, is still a very capable performer and she certainly knows how to entertain an audience.
She has had numerous hits, of course, but she has never lost the common touch and I think she will be accorded a warm welcome in Ballycastle.
Crawford Bell will also be performing and it's doubtful if any musician has worked with the calibre of bands that have benefited from Crawford's expertise.
Van Morrison, Nathan Carter, Daniel O'Donnell - these are just some of the big names with whom the modest and unassuming Crawford has worked at one time or other.
He certainly knows his music and is very highly regarded by all his peers both professionally and personally.
No country show would be complete without the bubbly Boxcar Brian who I have no doubt will manage to put his own particular stamp on the proceedings.
Brian never fails to create a big impression and I have no doubt that he will make a big impact at Ballycastle - on and off the stage!