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Review: LeAnn Rimes “Re-Imagined”

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Think back to when you were eleven years old. What were you doing?

LeAnn Rimes was signing her first record deal with Curb Records and embarking on a career that has so far spanned two decades, eleven album releases, over 37 million album sales worldwide to date and not to mention the award nominations and wins.

If you think back to the 90’s/00’s and consider songs that would be on the soundtrack of those years, LeAnn Rimes’ music would be high on those lists. Some of my favourite LeAnn songs were recorded when she was just a teen, and most of those were about love and heartbreak yet at the time she was still so young and probably hadn’t lived through what she was singing about, but her deliverance of the lyrics was always convincing.

“One Way Ticket” is a song that I’ve always loved, however the lyrics never seemed to fit the original melody for me and is something I thought would benefit from having a more subtle, mellow arrangement. Fast forward to 2017, and that’s exactly what I heard when LeAnn performed a more stripped back version during her UK tour. It felt as though LeAnn connected with the lyrics on a more personal level, because since it’s releasing it back in 1996, LeAnn has experienced love, loss, heartbreak and life in general. From that night, I hoped it would be released in some capacity and thankfully it has been along with other hits in the form of “Re-Imagined”.

“How Do I Live” was a huge hit and is one of the first songs I remember hearing during my childhood. There are certain songs that shouldn’t be touched or tweaked in anyway, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I have always had that attitude about this song but having said that it feels as though over the last few years LeAnn has made a lot of changes both personally and professionally that changed the way she performs, how she interprets music and delivers a lyric which is very evident in the new version.

I felt the original was about someone who was so in love with another person that their whole being is about them, they love the other so much that they can’t imagine life without them but the “Reimagined” version is more of a love letter. It’s stripped back, still vulnerable but has a warm, content feel and is a new and improved version that I never knew I wanted in life.

“Can’t Fight the Moonlight” originated from the movie “Coyote Ugly”, where LeAnn provided the vocals for Piper Perabo’s character Violet Sanford. This version is the first of two live tracks on the EP and has more of a bluesy vibe and is more up-tempo. It’s a good filler in between the ballads but for me, it’s the only one on the EP that I feel doesn’t work quite as well as a recording as it does at a show with the crowd atmosphere.

“Blue” was the track that made people make the comparison between LeAnn and the late, great Patsy Cline. The second of two live tracks, it keeps much of what made the original recording so special but of course over the years LeAnn’s voice has gotten stronger and more mature making it quite a nostalgic revisit to what kickstarted her career.

LeAnn Rimes and Stevie Nicks is a duet I never thought would work. Their voices and musical style feel worlds apart, and when I saw the duet was “Borrowed”, I didn’t know what to expect but everything came together and worked. “Spitfire” is one of LeAnn’s most personal albums, with “Borrowed” being a brutally honest song from a tough period in her personal life and Stevie’s vocal harmony adds an at times sombre feel to a very vulnerable song.

If you are a fan of LeAnn Rimes or are a radio listener, you will have heard these songs in their original form and what has stood out with the “Re-Imagined” EP is that they are a group of timeless tracks that were great the first time round, but for me I was a kid during that time and as much as I loved the songs I didn’t connect emotionally because I couldn’t but now as a twenty something, they take on a whole different meaning and that’s something I adore about music.

Over the last few years, LeAnn has produced some of her best and most authentic work. When the new version of “One Way Ticket” was released, I thought it was because of fans requesting it after hearing it at the live shows, never did I think this project would follow but it was a very pleasant surprise and it makes me excited to hear what’s next.

Track Listing;

  1. How Do I Live
  2. One Way Ticket
  3. Can’t Fight the Moonlight
  4. Blue

You can learn more about Cam by visiting her official website or by following her on her social media pages;

You can listen to “Re-Imagined” on any of the listed platforms here.

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Gigs

Review: Sugarland at C2C

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When Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were announced as part of the C2C 2017 line up, one of the first things I and I’m sure a lot of fans thought was would we have ourselves a Sugarland reunion? While this was a question both artists were asked, despite fantastic solo sets from both Jennifer and Kristian, unfortunately the reunion we were hoping for wasn’t to be.

Not that year anyway…

After presenting Duo of the Year at last years CMA Awards, Jennifer and Kristian alluded to a Sugarland reunion when Jennifer said, “We’re here to present the CMA Award we won together in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011… and well, who knows?” much to the delight of the audience.

News later came that Big Machine had signed Sugarland to the label with an album and tour announced shortly after. Lucky for us, the first official Sugarland shows were set to be played in the UK as part of C2C 2018.

From the moment they walked out on stage you would never know that this was only the second show, in fact you would be forgiven to think the duo had never been away. They oozed professionalism and had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the get go. The set felt nostalgic but also made me very excited for the future of Sugarland, as it is clear to see they are still headline material.

Performing a number of their beloved hits, including “All I Wanna Do”, “Stuck Like Glue”, “It Happens” to name a few before ending their high energy set with a cover of Simple Minds “Alive and Kicking” the pair looked happy, relaxed and like they were loving being back together on stage. Both performed one of their solo tracks, Kristian performed “Trailer Hitch” before Jennifer took on “Unlove You”, a beautiful moment in the show. It was great to see how they both took a step back to let one another shine during the solo moments.

Sugarland can have you in tears one moment with ballads like “Stay”, then have you singing your heart out the next with songs in the realm of “Baby Girl”.

I didn’t know how much I wanted a Sugarland comeback, until I witnessed it happen. Despite going their separate ways for several years to take on solo projects, it is more than evident that the magic is still there. Separately, they’re fantastic. Together? Magnificent.

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Reviews

Review: Chris Young “Losing Sleep”

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Releasing his third studio album – if you include his Christmas effort, “It Must Be Christmas” –  in under two years and a run of three No.1s on the US Country Airplay charts off his much lauded “I’m Coming Over” album, Grand Ole Opry’s recently inducted newest and youngest member, Chris Young’s latest offering “Losing Sleep” has been much anticipated by many of his fans, especially in light of the Grammy nominated “Think of You” with Cassadee Pope and the critically acclaimed duet with Vince Gill on “Sober Saturday Night”.

Whilst his loyal fans have devotedly encouraged the voting of airplay for the title track “Losing Sleep”, released earlier in May this year, reviews have been lukewarm, with comparisons even made with Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. The track in itself is not a bad song, and after a few listens it becomes a bit of an earworm in the pleasing sense. It’s just not an instant catch ya kind of song that makes you immediately want to hear the full album like “Aw Naw” did for “A.M.”; it’s more of a chilled laid back, slow burning grower kind of song.

In fact ‘chilled, laid back, slow burning’ is probably the best way to describe the whole album. Whilst we know Young’s baritone vocals is pure country as soon as he starts singing, the tempo of the title track and teaser track “Hanging On” which was released via Spotify have had some of the traditionalists bemoaning that he’s sold out, and there may well be more giving their tuppence’s worth once they hear “She’s Got a Way” and “Trouble Looking”.

Unapologetically, Chris Young is continuing his musical evolving journey that he somewhat tentatively started out on back on “A.M” before moving full speed ahead with it on “I’m Coming Over” and he’s continuing that path here. Personally, this isn’t a bad thing, everything has to change and evolve over time and music is no different to any other creative trend.

Once again Young has teamed up with Josh Hoge and Corey Crowder, and for the first time, he has co-writing credits on all the album tracks with noticeable collaborations with song writing powerhouses such as Jon Randall and Liz Rose. Young also stepped into the co-producer role for this project, something he is no stranger to.

“Each song has a unique vibe and feel to it” states Young in the accompanying press notes, and it is pretty noticeable on “Holiday” with its steel guitar, Hawaiian vibe. Talking of “Holiday”, one wonders whether Young’s recent UK visits and growing UK fan base has got him thinking on word play for song titles, we all know the Americans call ‘holiday’ ‘vacation’.

Despite his desire for experimentation, Young hasn’t alienated his more traditionalist fans by balancing the album out very well with the heartfelt “Blacked Out” and “Where I Go To Drink”. Both of which can only be described as classic country storytelling, heightened by Young’s classic country vocals, whilst “Leave Me Wanting More” and “Radio and the Rain” will please those fans of his who love him for his romantic ballads.

Is this album as strong as some of his previous albums? Personally, I don’t think so. Having said that, try asking me this same question six months’ down the line from now, when the tunes have had a chance to grow on me and I’ll probably be proved wrong. Like I said this is a ‘chilled, laid back, slow burning’ kind of an album which definitely grows on you, the more you listen to it.

Track Listing:

  1. Losing Sleep
  2. Hangin’ On
  3. Holiday
  4. Radio and the Rain
  5. Where I Go When I Drink
  6. She’s Got a Way
  7. Leave Me Wanting More
  8. Trouble Looking
  9. Woke Up Like This
  10. Blacked Out

To coincide with the release of “Losing Sleep”, Chris Young has also announced his own headlining tour starting in 2018 with dates in North America, hopefully this is an indication that his UK fans will be seeing him soon, seeing as he’s named it “Losing Sleep World Tour”!

You can purchase “Losing Sleep” from iTunes. If you aren’t already, be sure to keep up to date with Chris Young on social media and any news can be found on his official website.

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Reviews

Review: Maddie and Tae Live at KOKO

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Maddie Marlow and  Tae Dye burst onto the country scene in 2014 with the slightly controversial “Girl in A Country Song”, a song that went on to be the duo’s first number one single on country radio.

Following a very successful UK debut on the main stage at Country to Country in March 2016, the August 24th 2017 show at KOKO in London was part of Maddie and Tae’s second headlining UK tour.  I was initially feeling reserved about the concert as the duo have already toured their debut album, “Start Here”, extensively in the UK. However, my reservations were quickly cast away when Maddie and Tae hit the stage, opening with the upbeat “Your Side of Town”.

It was clear to see that all their touring in the US has paid off, the duo is even more confident than before and knew how to work the crowd. The set list was filled with firm fan favourites and new material.

“No Place Like You” was a highlight of the show as the crowd were singing every word at the top of their lungs, with a huge burst of energy and loud cheering from the London crowd, it was clear to see Maddie and Tae could not believe the reaction, especially to a song that was never even a single. This is what I love about UK audiences and Maddie touched on this too saying how much she loved playing in London because we listen to the entire record and know every word to every song, even some of the new unreleased material.

Of the new songs debuted I particularly liked “Welcome to The Club”, which is a fun upbeat song Maddie and Tae wrote to help Maddie’s younger sister get over her first heartbreak. I love this song and hope it’ll be on their highly anticipated sophomore album. It’s a song that is relatable, with lyrics like ‘If you’re gonna get where you’re going, you got to get a little bit broken, it’s weird and it’s real and it sucks, welcome to the club” it will appeal to their demographic of girls and young adults – once again showing Maddie and Tae as strong female role models within the country music industry. They are most definitely not ‘tan-legged Juliet’s waiting for a redneck Romeo’.

One of my other favourites of the new material Maddie and Tae was “Just Fine”, another uplifting, learning about the trials and tribulations of growing up kind of song. This would be a great first single from the sophomore album and I could see this doing very well on country radio.

Maddie and Tae switched up their hit second single “Fly” by cascading into a mash up with the bridge and chorus of Coldplay’s “Fix You”, of course this went down incredibly well with the London crowd. The other cover that the crowd went wild for was “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan.

The duo finished with the ever popular “Girl In A Country Song” and brought country living to London ending with “Shut Up & Fish”.

In conclusion, Maddie and Tae have become a slick and polished duo, interacting with the crowd and feeding off the electric vibe throughout the show at KOKO. These girls get better and better every time I see them and I wouldn’t be surprised if similar to predecessors – Hunter Hayes & Kip Moore –  that have performed at KOKO following the release of their sophomore album they’d be headlining a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. There is currently no date, or title for the new album, however given the quality of song writing and songs I heard during this show, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a hit.

Set List:

  • Your Side of Town
  • Right Here, Right Now
  • Sierra
  • Waiting on A Plane/ One Headlight
  • We Are Going to Get There
  • No Place Like You
  • Why You Looking At Me
  • Welcome to The Club
  • Slow Hands [Niall Horan Cover]
  • Growing [Acoustic Solo]
  • Downside of Growing Up
  • Walk in Her Heels
  • Smoke
  • Fly/ Fix You
  • Blame It on The Tree
  • Just Fine
  • Girl in A Country Song

Encore:

  • Somebody Will
  • Shut Up & Fish

The debut album “Start Here” is available to buy on iTunes and you can keep up to date with the duo by following them on their social media channels;

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their official website.

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Reviews

Review: “Brett Eldredge”

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Through the years, the quest of any artist is to find diversity and growth in their work, all in the fear of monotony, yet all in the hope of consistency. In a sense, it’s a double-edged sword. How do you mature without losing those qualities that made you so liked in the first place? It’s the conundrum that has given us one-hit-wonders, but also the George Strait’s and Dolly Parton’s, too.

With Brett Eldredge’s new self-titled release, the feat of diversity and consistency have both been conquered, and the traits that made fans react so well to his previous releases — “Bring You Back”,Illinois”, and “Glow” are all intact, and then some.

Under the direction of producer Ross Copperman, the 12-track album is an exemplary example of what happens when a great singer collaborates with a great producer and great songwriters. Take “The Reason”, for example, a song about a man in a late-night, drunken stupor wanting his lost love back. It’s the lyrical and musical story of regret, bookended by a piano, the kind you would expect in an old-time-y bar that sells the track. Eldredge’s sultry vocals help, too, connoting the rise and fall of the cadence of a contrite, drunken conversation in one’s own head.

Even though Eldredge is an obvious fit for the smooth and classic, he is no stranger to the upbeat. “Love Someone”, “Superhero”, “Somethin’ I’m Good At”, “Heartbreaker”, and “Crystal Clear” all fit the bill. “Love Someone” stands out particularly, not just because it happens to be the first track on the album, but because of its toe-tapping quality and shimmering instrumentation.

The lead single, “Somethin’ I’m Good At”, is another stand-out as well. It’s an endearingly self-deprecating look at everything he can’t do well, and the only thing he can do good…love. Eldredge, on the other hand, shouldn’t sell himself short; that is, if he feels any relation to the song. Unsurprisingly, he’s quite good with music, too. With “Brett Eldredge”, he’s not only good with it, he’s great. And you can take that to the bank.

Track Listing:

  1. Love Someone
  2. Superhero
  3. The Long Way
  4. The Reason
  5. Somethin’ I’m Good At
  6. Haven’t Met You
  7. No Stopping You
  8. Brother
  9. Heartbreaker
  10. Crystal Clear
  11. Cycles
  12. Castaway

You can buy or stream “Brett Eldredge”, as well as his other studio releases, from iTunes, Amazon, and other major retailers or streaming services. Be sure to follow Brett on social media and at his website.

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GigsReviews

Review: Miranda Lambert “Highway Vagabond” Live in the UK

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If you had asked me a few years ago who I would love to see play a show in the UK, I would have said Miranda Lambert. I also would have told you it would never happen. At the time Miranda Lambert was and still is one of, if not the biggest female artist in Country music today and at the top of her game in the United States. When it was announced in late 2015 that she would be a headliner for Country2Country in 2016, I for one was over the moon. Fast forward to late 2016 and a UK tour announcement was like all our Christmas’s came at once. Tickets purchased for Glasgow and London the countdown commenced.

I’m sure by now most people have heard about Glasgow and encore-gate. For years I have been told the Glasgow crowd are one of the best and I was excited to finally experience that for myself. However, a number of factors left me feeling a little disappointed. The show itself seemed to be going well, but unfortunately the venue chosen was the wrong one. Security were beyond strict with people standing and dancing, which killed any kind of atmosphere that was being built between Miranda, her band and the crowd – something Miranda picked up on as she noted on a couple of occasions that she thought the crowd would’ve been rowdier.

I will give it to the Glaswegian crowd, they tried, they did but from the stage I’m not sure it could be seen that people in different sections were being told to sit by security while those upfront were able to sing and dance to their hearts content. Making her way through the well-rounded set list of old and new, it came to introducing the band to the audience. Everything was fine until Miranda got to the last band member, a lovely guy from Essex, England which prompted boos from some of the crowd that turned into cheers once Miranda asked the audience to show her band member some love. Gotta love that old England and Scotland history! *Insert eye roll here*

There have been a lot of comments made over the last week, those saying the boos were banter or panto but honestly regardless of this booing at a show is rude and it is not the time or place. My stance on that is if you want a panto, wait for Christmas and get yourself a ticket. Miranda and the band continued, finishing on a great performance of “White Liar” and then just like that Miranda said her goodbyes, the lights went up and the show was over. People stood and waited for an encore but as soon as the stage was left, crew were there disassembling equipment.

From fans who met Miranda after the show, including myself it was clear she was visibly upset and wasn’t aware of the England and Scotland ‘banter’ and didn’t know why people were booing. Whether this was the cause of the show finishing slightly earlier, we won’t know but sadly the misunderstanding and venue troubles took the shine away from what should’ve been a great night for both Miranda & co and the crowd.

A couple of days later it was time for London and honestly I was apprehensive. I thought Miranda would either not be up for it after Glasgow and the comments made by fans over the past few days on social media or it would be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, it was the latter. The whole vibe was different, whether the London crowd had heard about the drama and wanted to make up for it in a sense or whether that would’ve happened anyway who knows, but from the moment the pre-show music started the crowd were on their feet cheering, much to the elation of Miranda who appeared to be content and at ease on stage.

From the get go Miranda seemed to relish in the atmosphere at Hammersmith, saying quite early on mid song “now that’s what I’m talking about”. Starting the set with “Fastest Girl in Town” it was high energy, all guns blazing with everyone up on their feet, with people cheering and singing along happily.

I’ll be the first to admit that there were some tracks on Miranda’s latest album “The Weight of These Wings” that didn’t resonate with me that much, but after seeing them being performed live I have a new love and appreciation for them. If you’ve heard “We Should Be Friends” and “Pink Sunglasses” sang on the streets of London the last couple of days, chances are it was this girl here. These are tracks that are so more suited to a live show and inject fun between the more emotional songs like “Over You” and “Ugly Lights”.

A highlight was “Ugly Lights”, a song Miranda says was written after her divorce where she admittedly maybe drank a little bit too much while she was sad, but then she got happy again. This then went into a crowd favourite “Mama’s Broken Heart” which I’m not ashamed to admit at this point I almost lost my voice screeching along.

Once again it was time for the band introductions, which went a lot more smoothly than it had done days previous. With the crowd roaring loudly for the Essex Steel Guitar player – Spencer Cullum -Miranda told the crowd she’d been waiting six months to hear that. At this point, Miranda shared the spotlight with her backing singer Gwen Sebastian who currently has a single out called “Cadillac” which was co-written with Miranda. Before leaving the stage temporarily, Miranda told the crowd that Gwen was going to perform her new song and I for one love that even in her own show she gives  others a chance to shine.

If you haven’t heard of Gwen Sebastian, I highly recommend you go and check out her solo material. I’ve been to a lot of shows and I have never paid as much attention to the backing vocalist as I have Gwen, her stage presence is brilliant, she’s so fun to watch and puts on her own little show stood behind Miranda. Whether it’s dancing while she waits for her cues to do her part, or her general interaction with the rest of the band, you can’t not watch. The crowd listened intently as she performed “Cadillac”, her vocals soaring through an almost silent venue until they erupted with applause which appeared to really touch Gwen before Ms Lambert returned to the stage.

At this point, we got a lovely surprise in the form of Miranda’s boyfriend Anderson East who Miranda said had performed in Europe more than she has, so he was showing her the ropes. Performing “Getaway Driver” together, their voices harmonised perfectly and it was clear to see how happy and in love they are with each other, something that was not lost on the crowd. I’ve never seen Anderson perform before but enjoyed what I saw and will definitely check out his own material.

Miranda is known for big powerful songs, full of attitude and while they are crowd pleasers it’s the tracks “Over You”, “The House That Built Me”, “Tin Man” etc that really show off her vulnerable side that maybe isn’t shown as much with her badass persona. She commands a respect from the audience during these moments, that they are more than happy to give.

One of my favourite parts of the show was “Little Red Wagon”. Again not a favourite of mine from the “Platinum” album but it’s so fun and sassy when performed live, even more so with the change of lyrics to the cheeky “you only love me for my big sunglasses, and my Tony Lomas I got the hell out of Oklahoma”…take that as you will.

With another rambunctious performance of “White Liar” Miranda performed “Gunpowder and Lead” which while not her most successful song to date, it is absolutely a crowd favourite. Full of attitude andangst, it was an almost perfect end to an amazing show. However, the encore made it that much more special.

“Tin Man” is one of the best songs of Miranda Lambert’s career, it is raw, vulnerable and soul bearing and I’m so happy we got to see it being performed live in London. You could’ve heard a pin drop as the packed Hammersmith Apollo listened intently to one of the best in the business up on stage accompanied by just a guitar. I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t nominated, let alone wins Song of the Year at the CMA Awards!

 

Finishing with a cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with the help of her band members and road family, I left Hammersmith with sore feet, an almost lost voice and sore hands from cheering so much. Everything I want from a gig and more.

Set List:

  • Fastest Girl in Town
  • Kerosene
  • Heart Like Mine
  • Highway Vagabond
  • We Should Be Friends
  • Vice
  • Baggage Claim
  • Over You
  • All Kinds of Kinds
  • The House That Built Me
  • Pink Sunglasses
  • Ugly Lights
  • Mama’s Broken Heart
  • Cadillac [Gwen Sebastian]
  • Getaway Driver [with Anderson East]
  • Ain’t Living Long Like This [Rodney Crowell Cover]
  • Automatic
  • Little Red Wagon
  • White Liar
  • Gunpowder and Lead

Encore:

  • Tinman
  • Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For [U2 Cover]

A special thank you to Kevin Cottreau for allowing us to use photo’s and video taken by him in our review.

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EPsReviews

Review: Lucie Silvas “Just for the Record”

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There have only ever been three songs in the history of my twenty something years on earth that have made me cry the first time I heard it, and those are “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” by Martina McBride, “Same Day, Different Bottle” by Lauren Alaina and “Either Way” by Chris Stapleton. There are now four, with the release of “For the Record” by the outrageously talented Lucie Silvas.

While many are discovering Lucie Silvas just recently, UK fans will know that she had a very successful career here before moving stateside and settling in Nashville where she is now making the music she was quite clearly born to make.

The first album of what I like to call the start of Lucie’s musical rebirth “Letters to Ghosts” was released back in 2015 and since then I’ve been looking forward to hearing more, and today is the day! Lucie released two new tracks, “My Old Habits” and “Just For The Record” June 2nd which I recommend you go and buy.

“Just for The Record” will break your heart, it is as simple as that and I will go as far to say that Lucie Silvas is the female Chris Stapleton. Her voice and lyrics in this song are haunting, full of a vulnerability that will resonate with listeners. Although it’s sung from the perspective of someone who has done their lover wrong, the chorus and second verse can be interpreted from any point of view, whether you’re the one who has done wrong or been the innocent party.

From the opening verse, to the first chorus of “And I won’t hate you if you wanna forget me, and say it was all a cloud of smoke, say it was nothing but a joke. Everything that you say about me is true, but just for the record I really loved you.” It doesn’t matter how much I’ve heard this song, and trust me it’s been on repeat for weeks, my eyes leak every damn time. Regardless of what happens in a relationship I think everybody wants to feel like it mattered and the line “just for the record I really loved you” is hard hitting because in any situation, whether a person is right or wrong with their actions, it doesn’t mean they didn’t love the other.

This track makes me excited to hear what Lucie Silvas has been working on, as I previously mentioned this sound feels like a musical rebirth for the Brit and I absolutely love it.

You can buy “Just For the Record” and “My Old Habits” on iTunes, and make sure you follow Lucie Silvas on her social media pages to keep up to date. You can also see her headline this years Nashville Meets London on Sunday 23rd July 2017 at Canada Square Park in Canary Wharf, London – more information can be found here.

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Reviews

Review: Chris Stapleton “From A Room”: Volume 1

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What is Country music? It’s a question often asked by fans, by critics, industry people and even by artists. Throughout the history of the genre there have been artists who have been criticised for being either too country or not country enough, but that’s what happens when a genre is made up of sub genres and lots of musical styles but at the core it is about story telling. Which brings me to the next two words. Chris Stapleton.

Back in December 2014, Justin Timberlake tweeted “REAL music fans already know. So, mainstream: @ChrisStapleton

Remember that name…”

Fast forward to May 2015 Stapleton released his debut solo project “Traveller”, after that Stapleton went on to win Album of the Year at both the CMA and ACM awards, Best Country Album at the Grammy’s as well as numerous other awards including Male Vocalist of the Year. The rest, you could say is history.

“From A Room: Volume 1”, the highly anticipated follow up to “Traveller” was released in May, as the first of a two-part project that was recorded at Nashville’s RCA Studio A. Once again produced by Dave Cobb and Stapleton, this nine-track album is just enough to wet the taste buds but will certainly leave you wanting Volume 2 sharpish.

As soon as “Broken Halos” begins that gravelly tone Stapleton has become known for shines, with harmonies from his equally talented wife Morgane. It’s a good introduction to the album and was recorded the day a childhood friend of Stapleton’s passed away from pancreatic cancer, making it that much more emotional to listen to.

I defy anyone to listen to “Second One to Know” and not get the urge to tap your foot, it’s one of the rare up tempo tracks and feels like it was made to be performed for live audiences, particularly with the brilliant guitar solo that concludes the song.

“Up to No Good Livin” tell the story of a guy who hasn’t had the greatest track record previously, but has changed his ways and is frustrated that despite his best efforts his other half doesn’t trust him because of past actions and behaviours. Accompanied by Morgane on vocals, it’s classic Stapleton and I’d just like to put out in the universe that we need a Morgane Stapleton album pronto!

Back in 2008, the incomparable Lee Ann Womack released her “Call Me Crazy” album and featured a track called “Either Way”, which was written by and had harmonies by non-other than Chris Stapleton. It was my favourite track from that album so when I heard Stapleton was releasing his own version, I’ll admit I was very excited and not at all disappointed when I heard it. It paints the picture of a couple who have given up completely on their relationship and rather than making the break, they go through the motions of being together and faking this picture-perfect existence because it’s what the couple are used to. Stapleton’s version of “Either Way” will rip your heart out, and I would like to think come next award season it will be nominated.

“Death Row” starts with a funky instrumental introduction that I can’t help but think of a scene in “The Pink Panther” until the vocals kick in. The song itself is very bluesy and mellow, and while not one of my favourites overall, I feel it is strategically placed as the last track of the album to leave listeners wanting more.

Chris Stapleton makes the kind of music that will make you feel something, whether it’s happiness or sadness you will feel and that to me is the epitome of Country music. For me it reminds me of the music my Grandad would have played in his car on a Sunday throughout my childhood but what is great about Stapleton’s sound is while it could’ve been popular in any decade, it still feels modern and relevant.

If you were at C2C in 2016 you will have experienced the musical genius that is Chris Stapleton, I have never and probably never will hear a reaction like that of a packed O2 arena cheer for an artist and boo when they realised his set was over and they wanted more. So, dear C2C I beg of you please have Stapleton back as a headliner. We need more!

Track Listing:

  1. Broken Halos
  2. Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning
  3. Second One To Know
  4. Up To No Good Livin’
  5. Either Way
  6. I Was Wrong
  7. Without Your Love
  8. Them Stems
  9. Death Row

If you haven’t already, make sure you buy “From A Room: Volume 1” here.

 

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Review: Kelsea Ballerini Live in London

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Kelsea Ballerini has been making waves on the country scene since her debut single “Love Me Like You Mean It” was released back in 2014, followed by her album “The First Time” the following year. I think it’s safe to say that during that time, Kelsea has defied all the odds against her and has skyrocketed to become one of the faces of the genre right now. As the first female artist to have three singles from her debut album go to number one since Wynonna Judd, with a fourth currently in her sights it was only a matter of time before the Knoxville, Tennessee native made her presence known on our shores with a UK show and what a presence it was.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold-out show at Under the Bridge in London, I’m sure you will agree it was a very special evening.

Singer-songwriter Catherine McGrath was the opening act and I’ll be completely honest I hadn’t heard her music so was going in completely ignorant but by the end of her set I wanted more. She was a very pleasant surprise to me, it may have been the first time seeing her live but hopefully that won’t be the last! What I loved about Catherine was her interaction with the audience between songs, it can be quite difficult to be an opening act knowing that you’re not necessarily the reason people are there but she grabbed the audience’s attention and rather than trying to force anything or for interaction feeling awkward, she was personable and hilarious without trying to be which made her even more endearing.

The UK scene is booming with talent right now and I really think Catherine McGrath could become one of the front runners, she’s an excellent storyteller and has a sweet toned voice to match. If you don’t have her EP One, make sure you check it out.

Having toured with some of the biggest stars and having a successful solo tour in the states, it was refreshing to see that despite that a smaller London venue still managed to move Kelsea Ballerini. This was evident throughout the show, she looked ecstatic to be there and frequently told the audience that she was freaking out and couldn’t believe they knew the words to unreleased music – something a UK audience has become known for.

Kicking off the show with her current and last single from her debut album, “Yeah Boy” was a
fun way to start with the crowd singing along word for word from the get go.

A highlight of the show was hearing new material from Kelsea’s upcoming album in the form of “Roses” and “High School”. “Roses” is a different musical direction for Kelsea, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Taylor Swift record and gives a good indication of what we could potentially expect from album number two, which excites me. I’m sure it’ll bring up the ever present debate of is this country music, but lyrically it tells a story and is cleverly written and that is what should be at the forefront.

Hearing the crowd echo “Peter Pan” was one of the best moments of the night, it’s a fan favourite and with good reason and if it wasn’t an already standing venue would have garnered a standing ovation I’m sure.

“Xo”, Kelsea’s official UK single was an awesome moment where for a short space of time it felt like a soft rock show. I mean, when Kelsea Ballerini tells the crowd to jump it would be rude not to and they happily complied, making the standing venue look like a mosh pit temporarily while Kelsea played drums in a slightly dramatic, theatrical way.

 

After leaving the stage, the crowd shouted for more and they were in luck. Kelsea came back out, only this time into the crowd with a mic and guitar to perform the title track of her debut album, “The First Time”. It’s one of my personal favourites from the album and to see it be performed in such a small, intimate setting was brilliant.

Of course there was no other way to end the night than with the song that made fans fall in love with her in the first place and that was “Love Me Like You Mean It”. I’m not sure who loved who more, but there was definitely a love fest going on between Kelsea and the London crowd. The atmosphere throughout the entire show was incredible.

It’s always special to see an artist play their first UK gig, whether they’re a smaller artist or someone who is a big name. Those shows are always the ones that go down on your list of favourite gig memories and seeing an artist look humbled by a crowd in another country knowing their music is what I love most about music and this gig reminded me of that.

If you didn’t get to see Kelsea on this trip, fear not because luckily for us she will be back in the UK this October where she’ll be opening for Lady Antebellum on their “You Look Good World Tour”. So if you haven’t already got tickets for that, make sure you do by purchasing tickets here.

You can also download “The First Time” from iTunes, and we cannot wait to hear album number two!

Thank you to Jamie-Lee Bassingthwaighthe for allowing us to use his gig photos.

Set List:

  • Yeah Boy
  • Looking at Stars
  • Square Pegs
  • Dibs
  • Stilettos
  • Roses
  • High School
  • Sirens
  • We Were Like/Girl Crush/Blue Ain’t Your Color/I Hate Love Songs
  • Peter Pan
  • Xo
  • First Time
  • Love Me Like You Mean It

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Reviews

Review: Adam Wakefield, “Blame It On Me”

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You may know him as a finalist on Season 10 of the US version of “The Voice” where he finished in second place as a member of Blake Shelton’s team. Despite not winning, Adam Wakefield’s raspy voice will be one that we have not heard the last of.

Competing on a national singing show can be the make or break of an artist, some capitalize on the exposure and some seem to disappear into the abyss but luckily for us Wakefield is working on his first EP and in the meantime has released his new single “Blame It on Me” to give fans a taste of what they can expect.

Upon first listen it is difficult to not make the comparison between Wakefield and Chris Stapleton, but that’s not a bad thing. Both artists have very distinctive voices and have bluegrass roots but Wakefield has more of a rockier edge to his sound which will set him apart.

“Blame It on Me” is a song that can be interpreted in different ways and the view point in which the story is told will change with each listen, going from a guy who is willing to accept responsibility for wrongdoings that he maybe didn’t do at all to appease his ex who he wants back or him accepting blame for what he did do that he wants to make right.

Everything comes together to create a great track to introduce himself as an artist, from the lyrics, the production to his soulful vocals which really shine and pack a punch during the chorus’. As a first single, Wakefield has done a brilliant job and I’m already waiting as patiently as I can to hear more.

You can hear the single yourself on Spotify, where it is featured on our “Completely Country Loves” Playlist or by downloading from iTunes.

To keep up to date with Adam Wakefield, you can follow him on social media;

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