Who are your CMA Songwriters?

“Songwriting is my way of channeling my feelings and my thoughts, not just mine, but the things I see, the people I care about.” – Dolly Parton

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Hello!

Well at the start of this week the much anticipated CMA Songwriters lineup was finally announced. Though there was some buzz on social media the announcement was somewhat overshadowed by the announcement that Little Big Town were returning to the UK in September to tour. It’s great news that these top names are coming to the UK and that they want to keep on coming back but I’m particularly excited that once a year we get a little taste of the real Nashville when the songwriters who wrote the hits for the big names come over and tell us the stories behind the songs. It was always going to be a big ask to top last year’s lineup which saw Lori McKenna, Charlie Worsham, Ashley Monroe and Charles Esten take to the stage alongside their host Shane McAnally. However the organisers have managed to secure an equally good line up this year with Maren Morris, Liz Rose, Mac Mcanally and Drake White taking to the stage along with their host Kristian Bush and today I’m going to give you a little bit more information on each of them.

We all know Maren Morris, or at least if you like Country you should probably know who she is by now! Rising to fame with her massive 2015 hit “My Church” Morris has received multiple CMA and Grammy Nods but she actually started her career a long time before this, releasing three studio albums on a fairly unknown label before self releasing her self titled EP and being picked up by a major label who then re-released this and her album Hero. But Maren Morris has writing credits on multiple songs that appeared in the show Nashville. Furthermore she also wrote Greener Pastures off the Brothers Osborne album Pawn Shop, Second Wind off Kelly Clarkson’s Piece By Piece album and one of her earliest success’ was having a cut on Tim McGraw’s Sundown Heaven Town with the song Last Turn Home. So though most of us better know Maren Morris as an artist with that powerful voice, she actually started her career as a songwriter and has more than earned her place in this year’s lineup.

Liz Rose is one of my favourite songwriters of all time! I first saw Liz Rose at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville in 2015 (though I was a fan long before this). She is as funny as she is talented and such a lovely person to chat to. Last year at Tin Pan South Festival in Nashville she invited a few of us up on stage to sing You Belong With Me, a song she co-wrote with and for Taylor Swift (yes you read that right, Taylor Swift!) need I say this was one of the most memorable moments of my life? That aside, Liz Rose is one of the most successful songwriters in Country music, she is one third of the writing trio The Love Junkies which sees her team up with Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey and together they have written such hits as Girl Crush and Sober for Little Big Town just to give a couple of examples and Liz and Lori co-wrote God Made Girls by Raelynn. We could spend all day listing Liz Rose’s achievements but a quick google search and you can see for yourself the extent of her career and you’re bound to find one of your favourite artists on the list of people who have released her songs.

Mac McAnally is a very well respected Songwriter and Musician in the Country music world. Many of the top artists have called upon McAnally to play on their records, from Dolly Parton to George Strait, Brad Paisley to Reba and he’s been named CMA Musician of the year for eight years in a row. Often we talk about an artist’s success and we sometimes measure it by how many albums they sold in their first week or whether a song got to number one or not. Mac McAnally has had a few of them, number one’s, but what Mac McAnally has is something that every writer, artist, musician wants and rarely gets, longevity. He’s had a lengthy career and has had his fingers in many pies, and everything he does is consistently good. The music can do the rest of the talking but he’s not in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for no reason and I’m sure jaws will drop on Thursday 9th March when Mac starts playing.

Now I will admit that I’m fairly unfamiliar with Drake White, the upcoming singer songwriter signed to Big machine’s Dot Records. From what I can tell though he has quite the following over here with many people buzzing about his planned appearances throughout the C2C weekend. He has co-written with the likes of songwriters Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Tom Douglas to name a few. These are some of the top Nashville Writers so though I have yet to hear his 2016 album, Spark, I am sure it is bound to have some cracking songs on there. I’m really looking forward to checking out Drake White and seeing him at the Songwriters Series.

Host Kristian Bush is best known amongst us Country fans as one half of Grammy award winning duo Sugarland. They are one of my favourite Country artists of all time, in fact that was the main reason I decided to attend this years C2C because Jennifer Nettles was playing. Now I along with many others are hoping for a little Sugarland reunion since Bush was announced to play the Songwriters Series. But before Sugarland, Bush had success with his Folk-Rock band Billy Pilgrim and since he and Jennifer parted ways he has enjoyed a successful solo career. Kristian has also, more recently, ventured into the World of musical theatre, writing songs for Troubadour which is currently being performed at the alliance theatre in Georgia. It begs the question, is there anything Kristian Bush can’t do when it comes to music?

So you see, if you’re not excited about this lineup yet, then, well you’re crazy! If you haven’t got your tickets, go and get them now, this is one night you don’t want to miss!

Thanks,

Zoe

Aaron Watson in Manchester!

“Heaven knows all I need is my faith, my fans, my friends and my family, besides I’d rather be an old fence post in Texas than the king of Tennessee” – Aaron Watson, Fence Post

Hello

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So I’m going to be honest with this blog, I was very new to Aaron Watson before I got invited along to his Manchester gig. In two minds whether to go or not, I decided to brave the cold (it was -2 when I left mine!) and boy am I glad I did. With a fabulous homegrown Country band opening up for Watson it was sure to be a wonderful night where the two countries and cultures could come together in Country music and showcase their own experiences through storytelling lyrics. I was already quite familiar with support act, Honey Ryder, having seen them perform on a number of occasions and they have quickly become one of my favourite UK Country acts. So without further ado I’ll tell you how the night panned out and deliver my verdict on the Texas born singer-songwriter.

Honey Ryder took to the stage just after 8 opening with 2012 single You Can’t Say That. From the get go it was a high energy performance, the bassist who I don’t recall seeing before, was really getting into the music, you could see it in his facial expressions that he was enjoying himself. Midway through the set they played my favourite song of theirs, Marley’s Chains and they got the audience involved successfully. I love the melodies throughout that song and they do become very effective when you have a full audience tunefully singing along. They played a new song, Say You Love Me which boasted a Country Pop chorus that was easy for the audience to pick up after hearing it once. They concluded their seven song set with Worlds Away off their album Marley’s Chains. The crowd seemed to warm to Honey Ryder pretty quickly and it’s no surprise really, over time I see them they demonstrate their professionalism on and off stage, they’re relaxed up there, they get into their music showing they’re passionate about what they write, Lyndsay communicates well with the crowd between songs and they enjoy meeting fans old and new after they’ve played.

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Then for the main event, Aaron Watson’s band stepped out on stage and the sound effect of a train rumbled around the room and silenced the crowd. Then, kitted out in a tight t-shirt, his cowboy hat and cowboy boots, hidden slightly under those jeans, Aaron Watson appeared and the crowd roared at the sight of him and the realisation of what song he was about to play, Freight Train. I instantly knew this was going to be a high energy performance by the texan as he played one of my favourite songs of his. In the instrumental breaks he continued to strum his guitar and posed for selfies with fans to the left of the stage. He maintained the high energy and big grin as he played Summertime Girl off the album Real Good time. And everyone in the room was having a real good time, dancing and singing along. Then Aaron took it down a level and began talking to the crowd, telling us all about his Dad, a Vietnam war veteran who got badly injured whilst fighting for his Country. He dedicated the next song to veterans all over who’ve risked their lives for their countries. He began Raise Your Bottle and held his guitar in the air throughout the chorus’ to which the crowd responded by raising their glasses and their hands.

This wasn’t the only occasion that Watson took the time to address the audience, he talked about the heartbreak he felt losing his daughter and how hard he found it writing and performing again after that. Then he told us the story of champion bull rider Lane Frost who died in the arena and the words his mum had said after his death which had struck a chord with Aaron and inspired the song July in Cheyenne, he spoke of the moment he got to play the song at a rodeo in front of 20,000 people but most importantly Lane Frost’s Mum and Dad. It was an emotional moment as he broke into the song and you could tell he still felt every word as he sang it. He chatted about his daughter wanting to learn Taylor Swift songs and though some members of the crowd seemed to lose focus and chat, I enjoyed these moments, I really felt like I knew this guy by the end of the night. He, like Honey Ryder, played a new song off his upcoming album, Outta Style was an upbeat number that saw the crowd dancing and swaying to the beat. One of my favourite songs of the night was the one he wrote for his wife, That Look which he played on his Opry Debut back in 2015.

Aaron Watson had had a request before the show from a boy at the front, his mum’s favourite song was Off the Record and Watson happily played the song for her, remarking that it was an old one and he hoped he remembered it right. Then he asked if anyone had any requests, there were lots of shouts from the crowd and Aaron picked out Fence Post, a song which reminded me of a Johnny Cash song. There were various points throughout the night where I found myself getting lost in the music, I’d close my eyes and sway and feel every note and every word. The band were tight, the skill and knowledge of their instruments was exceptional and this was displayed towards the end of the night when Watson invited each of them to show off a little bit. The guitarist savoured this moment and demonstrated his skills moving up and down the fretboard. The fiddle player though blew everyone away, he put his fiddle behind his back and still managed to play the right notes flawlessly. He invited the lady who had requested Off The Record to hold his bow and he held the fiddle with both hands and moved it along the bow at an exceptional speed.

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Aaron said he’d come out at the end to take photos and sign things for his fans, unfortunately for me I had a bus to catch and a long journey home so missed out on this. However it was a lovely thing to do especially since his set was quite long and he must have been exhausted by the end of it. It was a fantastic night though and one that opened my eyes a little bit to a different side of Country music. In just one evening Aaron Watson has become one of my favourite artists, his charm, his humour, his on stage presence and energy, his views and morals which he sticks by and portrays in his songs and which have led him to success, but most of all his music and artistry which really does come from the heart.

Thank You

Zoe x

Interview with Andrew Combs

“Heroes get remembered but Legends never die” – Babe Ruth

Hello!

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Photo taken from website

 

In 2016 I saw Andrew Combs live three times, the first time was almost a year ago now at C2C. It was the first I’d heard of the young Texas Singer-songwriter and I was fairly impressed by his set that day and the appreciation he had for his supporters. Just weeks later whilst in Nashville for Tin Pan South I stumbled across his music again at a bar called the Country where he was playing in a round with Matraca Berg (Strawberry Wine, You and Tequila) and Brent Cobb (Stay All Night, Don’t It) amongst others. It was the day Merle Haggard died and there was a sense of mourning in the air around Nashville and at this particular round which saw friends of Haggard’s take to the stage just hours after the news had broke, emotions were high. The music that each writer played, including Andrew Combs just felt more raw and real than anything I’d heard before and that night will forever stick in my mind. Later on in the year, Combs returned to the UK and I went along and had a quick chat with him.

I wondered if you could tell me a bit about your journey so far in music?

I grew up in a musical family, my Dad played piano, I didn’t grow up with Country music, I don’t really know if I consider what I do as Country music per se but I did get into the Texas songwriters when I was in high school. Some of my friends turned me on to them and I really dived deep into the folk and country songwriting World. From then on I lived in Nashville, I grew up in Dallas and moved to Nashville when I was 18 because of that and I’ve been there ever since.

Can you tell me about your songwriting process, what comes first or is it different every time?

Yeah there’s no set formula, sometimes it’s words, sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s a title or a line. Yeah, there’s no rules.

What are your main inspirations? Where do you get ideas from?

I guess my inspirations are not just other music but films and poetry and conversations overheard, the outdoors, dogs… all sorts of stuff but in terms of music my main hero is Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury and Guy clark, I love the old Country stuff Waylon and Willie and those people. But I also love Simon and Garfunkel and Jackson Brown that’s what my parents raised me on that 60’s 70’s folky stuff. I like Rock and Roll too, I’m all over the place.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?

Well there’s a new one I’m going to play, it’s about looking in a girls window, that’s pretty strange.

When you’re on stage, are you completely focused or do you let your mind wander? What are your mid-gig thoughts?

Oh God, I wish I knew how to control my brain mid-gig. It depends, some nights I’m more focused than others, some nights I end up thinking about going fishing and what I ate for dinner, stupid stuff.

How’s the UK treated you, do you get to see much of the Country when you’re over here?

Yeah it’s been good, it always is. I’ve been a handful of times and the audiences are really respectful and quiet and that helps especially when you don’t have your band with you. I’ve always enjoyed England and Scotland and Ireland and their people.

What’s next for you?

I just recorded a record so hopefully that will be out in early 2017.

And Andrew will be back in Ireland in April for Kilkenny Roots Festival with more UK dates expected to be added to that trip in the near future so keep your eyes peeled for more announcements from Andrew and if you haven’t already go and check out his music at the website below.

http://www.andrewcombsmusic.com

Thanks,

Zoe x

 

Happy New Year! Coming up in 2017…

“Life is short, let’s go live it. Ain’t no time for wasting time.” – Jason Aldean

Hello!

Happy New Year to all of our readers! 2016 saw a number of great releases both in the UK and across the pond, history was made in the mainstream charts… twice! And there were some new arrivals for some of our favourite people in the scene. So today, a week into the new year, we’ll reflect on last years events and have a glimpse of what’s to come later on this year.

Firstly I’d like to congratulate Ben Earle of The Shires, Paul and Claire of Raintown and Dan Schofield (DJS Photography) on their new arrivals. The morning of Glastonbury Ben became a father to little River who has made a number of appearances on The Shires Facebook page, and isn’t he adorable? Then came Alba, Raintown’s beautiful baby girl and towards the end of the year Dan, one of the best photographers in the scene became a father to Zoe. We wish them all the best going into 2017 with their new families, maybe these are our future Country stars, who knows, I’m sure all three will be raised on Country music though!

As I previously mentioned, history was made in the charts. Ward Thomas released their album Cartwheels through Sony in September and it topped the UK albums chart, something which hasn’t been done before by a UK Country artist. Later on that month The Shires released their second album My Universe through Decca and it became the fastest selling UK Country album of all time and despite not topping the charts it sold more copies in it’s first week than any other UK Country album and it continues to sell quite well. The Shires also signed to Big Machine Records in the US which, if any of you are familiar with the label and the success it has had, is a pretty big deal.

But they weren’t the only UK acts to release music this year, Kaity Rae dropped a cracking EP earlier in the year and inside information tells me that you’ll be seeing a lot more of her this year! Dexeter, Liv Austen, Dahlia and Megan O’Neill all released music through Decca and I know for sure Dexeter are going out on the road again soon, have you got your tickets? The BCM Awards crowned Laura Oakes female vocalist of the year and Gary Quinn was male vocalist of the year. The Southern Companion took home album of the year and Holloway Road were duo of the year.

There were new releases from our American friends too, my favourite album came from Brandy Clark, Big Day In A Small Town and it was great to see her tour over here too. In fact this year has seen more artists come over from the US to tour than in previous years. I guess Country music really is growing in the UK! Miranda Lambert released a fantastic double album in the last quarter and good news, she’s touring the UK in 2017! Also rumoured to be coming back in 2017 is Canaan Smith who recently supported The Shires on tour. Country 2 Country has a brilliant line up, personally I’m most excited for Jennifer Nettles but there is a nice mix on the line up this year and we await to see what the line up is like on the pop up stages. Another festival I’m looking forward to is Buckle and Boots, last year was fantastic and incidentally where I discovered Thorne Hill who I believe may be coming back to play again this year!

In terms of new releases, I’m really excited about someone who may have slipped under your radar, Natalie Hemby. Now I first heard Natalie at Tin Pan South in 2015 and again in 2016, she’s written hits for Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson… and the list goes on, this girl is a fantastic songwriter and this year she’s releasing her own album on her own label, Puxico is bound to be full of top quality songs but she’s fairly unknown over here. My advice to you is to check her out, look at her writing credits and you’ll want to buy her record!

In terms of the blog, I still have lots of interviews to post from last year, that I’ve recovered from my broken dictaphone! But I will bring you more interviews from artists all over the UK and US throughout the year including Andrew Combs and Tucker Beathard and I will be at Country 2 Country and the CMA Songwriters Series in March, Tin Pan South in Nashville in April, Buckle and Boots in June and at various gigs and tours! For now though, I hope you have a happy and healthy 2017!

Zoe x

 

Merry Christmas! Christmas albums 2016!

“Though it’s been said many times many ways, merry christmas to you”

Hello!

Happy Christmas Eve! I’m sure many of you are with your families now, like I am, listening to some classic christmas songs, but in the Country music World there has been a number of Christmas releases this year. I want to run through five of those albums and let you know my favourite Christmas songs off each, and I even have a special little Christmas tune of my own for you at the bottom!

So the first album on our Christmas round up is Chris Young’s It Must Be Christmas. It features a mix of classic, well known, well loved christmas songs and a couple of originals. Chris’ twang actually sounds nice on those classic songs, I really like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The album also features Alan Jackson on There’s A New Kid In Town, which is a great song and perhaps my favourite on the record although I also like Under The Weather which Chris co-wrote.

The second album I want to discuss is by Loretta Lynn, released in early October. This is a classic Country album really, instrumentally, you have fiddles and lap steels, but of course each song is a Christmas song. Again you have a nice mix of songs, some carols in there like Silent Night which Lynn makes her own. My personal favourite however is To Heck With Ole Santa Clause. I do really like this album just because I feel it’s different from other Christmas albums in the sense that she’s not just trying to copy what everyone else has done she really adds her own sound to it.

Rascal Flatts are back on the scene with a Christmas album of their own. It’s no surprise they’ve included a number of carols on the track list including Joy to the World and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I have always liked Rascal Flatts vocals, I think they do Christmas well. My favourite song on this record is Someday at Christmas, though I also like The First Noel, it’s just so hard to pick these Christmas tunes!

I have no trouble with this next one though, off Jennifer Nettles christmas album, To Celebrate Christmas, O Holy Night just takes the biscuit. Nettles vocals are just sublime in this beautiful carol. Now you either love her vocals or you hate them, a little bit like Marmite, but I personally love them and this is my favourite rendition that I’ve heard of O Holy Night so although there’s some great tracks on there like Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep, I have to recommend O Holy Night.

The last album I’m going to look at comes from another one of my favourite artists, Kacey Musgraves. A Very Kacey Christmas gives us everything we hoped for. I listened to this with my Dad and we both said “it’s so Kacey” especially I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas which is just one of the best songs in existence. There are a number of self penned tracks though, Christmas Makes Me Cry, was actually co-written with another of our favourite artists Brandy Clark. One of my favourites though is Present Without a Bow, the melody gets stuck in my head and again there’s some great co-writers on that track who write with Kacey a lot and I think that’s one of the reasons this album is so good.

So I’ll leave you now with my own little Christmas song and all that’s left to say is have a Merry Christmas!

Thank You

Zoe x

 

 

Tucker Beathard – Fight Like Hell EP Review!

Hello!

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Last year, around this time, I read an article which listed upcoming Country artists to watch out for in 2016 and they were certainly right about one of the acts, Tucker Beathard. What a year it has been for the son of Nashville songwriter Casey Beathard, who got signed to Dot Records, an imprint of Big Machine and released his first single which peaked at number 2 on the Country airplay charts. His debut EP “Fight Like Hell” was released back in October and his UK tour was a huge success. So if you’re unsure whether to ask Santa Clause to pop a copy in your stocking well read on to find out what I thought about it!

The album opens with “I’ll Take On The World With You” and the first we hear of Tucker is actually quite unusual as at the beginning of the verse there is an effect on the vocals which almost muffles the sound. The lyrics are detailed and I like the acoustic guitar riff going from the chorus back into the verse. There’s some nice production throughout in fact, some unique, subtle techniques which bring the record to life. In the second track, and Beathard’s first single “Rock On” it is once again his vocals that strike me but for a different reason, it’s in this track I notice he has a sort of gravelly tone to his voice and it’s mature for his age. It isn’t only his vocals that stand out for me though, he shows us that he too knows how to write a Country hit just like his Dad. “20-10 Tennessee” uses metaphors throughout to tell this love story and it isn’t only the lyrics that are done well in this song, I love that pedal steel and the backing vocals do a great job.

The instrumentation throughout the EP is just what you’d expect from a Country record but I do think that the use of backing vocals throughout is what takes some of these songs to the next level. For example in “Home Sweet USA” it is the backing vocals that help those melodies at the start of the chorus to soar. On first listen the bridge felt a little disconnected to the rest of the song but it has begun to grow on me. It uses a common theme which we hear often in Country music but you’ve got to love their patriotism. It is this penultimate song though that is my favourite, “Momma and Jesus” is in my opinion a beautiful and honest concept. The lyrics are well thought out and really tell a story, I love the line “crushing out love like a cigarette.” They picked a great song to close on though, the title track “Fight Like Hell” which is an uplifting track along the same vein of Dierks Bentley’s “Riser” and Tucker once again shows he can write a cracking melody, as that chorus really sticks with you.

In a nutshell this is a fantastic debut from this young songwriter that seems to have a vast skill set, his vocals and his writing has a maturity about it but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to have fun. If you haven’t sent your wish list to Santa yet, make sure you add this to the bottom, or in big letters at the top, I think it’s a must and I’m sure next year we’ll hear even more great things from Tucker Beathard.

Just a quick reminder to all my readers that you can still vote for Best of British Country Music in the UK Blog Awards. Voting closes on Monday morning and all you have to do is click this link below and follow the instructions. Thank you!

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/best-british-country-music

In the new year we hope to bring you an interview with Tucker so stay tuned!

Thanks,

Zoe x

The Shires raise the roof of The Bridgewater Hall!

Hello!

Last night I was in Manchester with all the family watching UK Country superstars The Shires at The Bridgewater Hall supported by Canaan Smith. The Shires are quickly becoming a household name in the UK, after all they are the pioneers of UK Country music and I’m sure it won’t be long before they are household names in the states too after signing for Big Machine, who gave us such acts as Taylor Swift, Maddie and Tae and many, many more. After their latest album broke yet more records being the fastest selling UK Country album of all time, I couldn’t wait to hear the new songs live.

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Canaan Smith opened the night. I had heard great things about the young American but hadn’t had a chance to really listen to his music. He began with a song off his album, One of Those, and even after the first song I was hooked. He had a good stage presence, talking to the crowd and keeping them engaged throughout which isn’t always a given with support acts but he was top notch! His cover of Iris went down really well, his vocals were very powerful and in a valiant effort to get the slightly shy Manchester crowd to sing he got up off his stool, guitar in one hand, the other raised into the air and stood at the edge of the stage and sang his heart out, unplugged. He returned to his seat and began to tell us a story about his family and the day his brother died in a car accident. Before he even got to the song to accompany this story I was in tears, and I wasn’t the only one as his voice started to quiver as he neared the end of his recollection and began playing Bronco. I struggled to pick out all the lyrics, I think that was the sound engineer as opposed to Canaan but the lyrics I did hear were very detailed and personal. He concluded his set with his number one hit Love You Like That and then the audience seemed to clear, more than likely to go and buy his album like we did!

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After a short interval The Shires’ band took to the stage and began to play as Ben and Crissie walked on stage to rapturous applause and they burst into Nashville Grey Skies off their first album. They seemed full of life as they grinned and danced around the stage and the crowd sang along with them. They followed this with a single off their latest album and the title track My Universe. They wanted to go big with this album for their live shows and the sound filled the stunning Bridgewater Hall. And keeping with the second album and the uplifting, up tempo songs, Drive followed, a song co-written with US Country heart throb Kip Moore. They took it down a notch then and as Ben switched to the piano Crissie walked over to stand near him as they sung Naked. The band were very tight throughout and they too had big grins on their faces as they performed.

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Keeping at that intimate level they played a cover of Robbie Williams Angels which they performed in front of him when they were on Chris Evans show earlier in the year. As they did then, they more than did the song justice and the crowd sang along with the duo. This was followed by a song off their first album, the first song they ever wrote together actually, All Over Again which they both sung beautifully. I don’t know how they manage to sing in such fine voices every night doing back to back shows, I sang my little heart out to every song for one night and woke up hoarse this morning! But I guess it’s their technique as they went back to a bigger sound for Not Even Drunk Right Now, one of my favourites off the album. Those intervals and staccato notes in the oohs were tight between themselves and the backing vocals. Similarly in Beats To Your Rhythm which is quite unique in the drum arrangement especially for the genre, everyone on stage was very in tune with what each other was doing which is great to see, they looked like just a big group of friends having a good time up there.

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Save Me followed, this song really struck me live, when I first heard it on the album it wasn’t my favourite but hearing it live was like hearing the raw emotion in it and I have certainly warmed to it a lot more now. It’s funny how the same song heard live can have a different impact on you. I think this was one of my Gran’s favourites on the night too. The band took a break at this point and exited the stage as Crissie talked about her Dad who sadly died from Cancer 20 years ago now. It was another moment in the night where I felt tears rolling down my cheeks as she sang Daddy’s Little Girl. At the end as the band returned and Ben left Crissie alone on centre stage to go and sit at the piano, he squeezed her shoulder in support and said into the mic how he admired her for singing such an emotional and personal song every night.

Brave followed, the title track off their first album which was the first UK Country album to enter the top ten of the mainstream album charts. Well since then they’ve done a lot and achieved a lot but it was fantastic to hear some of those songs that first made us fall in love with The Shires and then to hear the new stuff that made us fall in love with them all over again… see what I did there? Ok I’ll stop with the jokes! State Lines followed this and then they got us all up on our feet as they asked what night it was, to which we all replied Sunday… ok that wasn’t the correct answer, it was Friday in that great hall just for a few minutes. We stayed standing for Jekyll and Hyde and people danced and swayed along. As they announced I Just Wanna Love You Ben asked if anyone had had it at their wedding to which a cheer went up. He sighed a sigh of relief as he told us how he asked that the day before and it was followed by a silence and Crissie joked that they’d paid a man to cheer. Then they broke into the song and sang it beautifully.

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Again we all got on our feet as they introduced the last song, Tonight. Split down the middle there was a bit of crowd participation and competition. But of course they couldn’t leave it there. We carried on singing until they came back out for an encore, a three song encore. They said this next song isn’t always in the set, “it isn’t played in Wales, it isn’t played in Scotland” they said of course it was Made In England. If they ever decide to change the national anthem (as I believe there was talk of it a couple of years ago) I vote Made in England as Englands anthem! We all stood and sung along proudly. This was followed by a story about when the pair got “stranded” in Nashville for an extra night, they joked about how terrible it was, Ben had a few drinks and on the plane home this idea popped into his head, which he took to Nina Nesbitt and they co-wrote exactly how Ben had first imagined it, this was Other People’s Things. They concluded then with a really big number which seems to be doing well on the radio recently, A Thousand Hallelujahs, my favourite off the album and the sound of The Shires, their band and the crowd singing and dancing along filled the beautiful Bridgewater Hall. What a night to remember.

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If you haven’t seen them on this tour already, try and catch them, and don’t forget to give Canaan Smith a listen, I know we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the near future!

Just a final quick note to let you all know that I’ve been nominated for a UK Blog Award so if you like reading my articles, I’d really appreciate it if you could click on the link below and vote!

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/best-british-country-music

Thank You!

 

Zoe x