Country music – Australian country music, at least – is unique in the amount of opportunities it affords young people to get a musical education and get some experience playing live. The Starmaker and Telstra Road to Tamworth competitions are loaded with talented under-25s, some of whom I was lucky to see play at this year’s festival. Here’s a short round-up:

Caitlin Harnett: The buzz is big for this Sydneysider, who has attended Camerata, the Country Music School. Although she had a cold the day I saw her and wasn’t feeling her best, her lovely voice and engaging stage manner were still evident. She was playing with …

Olivia Hally: I was impressed with this Victorian’s singing and guitar playing (she’s also a Camerata graduate). She had a nicely different take on some country standards, including ‘Jolene’.

Adam James: This Starmaker finalist launched his CD, Messages & Memories, at the Tamworth Hotel. He’s in the Troy Cassar-Daley songwriting vein, which is good – anyone who emulates Troy is good!

Claye Middleton: A quiet performer with a lovely singing voice – great pitch and timbre. I expect to see him back for many years to come.

Chad Shuttleworth: Caught him busking outside Tamworth Shopping World, and his cheeky charm had attracted quite a crowd. He was definitely in the ‘entertainer’ branch of the country music family (where Beccy Cole and Adam Harvey are ‘entertainers’, and Kasey Chambers and Troy Cassar-Daley are ‘singer-songwriters’ – this is a loose division of my own creation, and subsets do occur). I would have paid money to see him, so I put some in his guitar case.