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The Underdog

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Aaron Watson made headlines earlier this year when his independently released album , The Underdog , went straight to number one in the country charts . It prompted him to say : ” My name is Aaron Watson . I’m not played on country radio . And I have the number one record in country music this week . I do exist . ” He’s also pointed out that he’s outsold the latest albums of more widely recognised artists such as Toby Keith .

I’ve only really been aware of Aaron due to his track Hey Y’All – My Contribution To Ruining Country Music Country Song ! Ha ! which Bob Harris has played a couple of times and sums up the direction Mr Watson is coming from . As much as I love much of mainstream , modern country , it’s great that there is still room for the likes of Aaron Watson , Chris Stapleton , Sturgill Simpson et al despite the industry’s best efforts .

The reason I’m writing this is because Aaron is coming over from Texas to the UK in January ( dates below ) . If there is anything the British public love , it’s an underdog . Great album cover as well .

January 26 – Ruby Lounge , Manchester

January 27 – Glee Club , Birmingham

January 28 – Borderline , London

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Kacey Musgraves @ Albert Hall , Manchester 16/11/15

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Unlike a certain other American country music star who cancelled all his European dates following the Paris attacks , Kacey Musgraves rolled into town with her Country & Western Rhinestone Revue and a defiant ” The shows must go on “. She was rewarded by a packed , sold-out venue full of excitable fans and we were rewarded with a bright , fun show that was the perfect riposte to those who seek to destroy our way of life and stop us enjoying music altogether .

I’ve been a fan of Kacey since the first time I heard Merry Go ‘Round , but have managed to miss her on all her regular UK visits until now . The vibe of her show was set right from the off with a stage draped in purple tinsel , littered with lit-up yellow stars , at least three mirror balls and topped off with her band emerging in pink tuxes lined with flashing lights . This was going to be fun . Kicking off with the title track to her new album , Pageant Material ( a song I can’t get out of my head at the moment ) , the set included the best of both her records plus an eclectic selection of covers : No Scrubs by TLC ( eh? ) , Yellow by Coldplay ( alright ) and These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra ( great , with flashing light cowboy boots on a dancing Kacey ) . We also got Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart , a Musgrave co-write that went down very well with me .

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Of course , Kacey is not short of exceptional songs of her own with standouts including early highlight Biscuits , other newer tracks High Time and Dime Store Cowgirl plus the older Blowin’ Smoke and main set closer Follow Your ArrowMerry Go ‘Round was performed solo and was when Kacey chose to address the terrible events in Paris with grace and emotion , the crowd taking over the song by the end . As she said , ” The last thing to do is to live in fear ”  – if you do , change how you live your life and stop doing the things you love , who’s won ?

I was due back in Manchester tomorrow to see another of my favourite country artists who chose a different response to terrorism . Kacey Musgraves has all my respect for continuing her tour and her already significant UK fanbase will only grow from here . Great songwriter and performer , great band , great crowd and venue , great show – the perfect response .

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Understood

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This post was going to be a moan about why Eric Church’s shock new album , Mr Misunderstood , wasn’t available in the UK , but it’s now appeared on iTunes so all is well . There were two big surprises at last week’s decent CMA Awards : Chris Stapleton taking over and the surprise release of a new Church record . I love it when artists do the unexpected and I suppose we should come to expect it from Mr Church who has always followed his own path in the music industry . I’m going to have to listen to it a lot more , but Mr Misunderstood is already sounding like another great addition to his catalogue .

There was a good article about it in The Guardian ( of all places ) : http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/nov/11/eric-church-beyonce-moment-new-album-country

Here’s the video for the title track plus , for those that haven’t seen it yet , Chris Stapleton’s show-stealing performance with Justin Timberlake :

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Dreamers

I’ve written before about my love for songs about the road , touring and the general power of live music . Listening to music and going to gigs has been my life since my teens and I’ve always been attracted to the romanticism of the road and the magic of great shows , be they in small clubs or giant arenas . Sometimes I think that the times I’m the happiest are when I’m in the crowd watching my favourite performers with friends , my girlfriend or both . Two such performers have recently released songs that tick all the boxes for me .

The title track to Tim McGraw’s new album ( out this week ) is an ode to leaving home to pursue a dream and risking everything for the music you love :

The hum of wheels on the blacktop

The strum of strings on a flat top

It’s a neon fever for a small-town dreamer

Tells you everything you have that’s worth losin’

Damn country music

Another classy single from an artist who’s been on a bit of a roll in recent years and shows that getting older doesn’t have to mean a decline in quality or commercial appeal ( see Toby Keith ) .

Charles Kelley is working on a solo album while Lady Antebellum take a break and the first single from it is another hymn to travelling and playing music :

I’m the dreamer , soaking up every line

Searching for truth all the time

The believer , that music can save a soul

The one who’s at every show in the front row singin

Aided by Dierks Bentley ( it reminds me a bit of Riser ) and Eric Paslay , this song is purpose built for playing live and I can see a good old singalong by the the end . Charles Kelley gets a lot of stick from certain quarters ( seemingly for writing popular songs and having a hipster beard ) , but I think he’s a good songwriter , decent singer and an engaging live performer and my unapologetic love for Lady A is well documented .

I really like both these songs and hope they’re both hits along with their parent albums . Here’s to the next song  , the next show and ‘ all the drivers and dreamers , believers and singers ‘ out there .

                                                                                                                                                                                       

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Venues Day

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Yesterday was Venues Day 2015 : an event organised by the Music Venue Trust to promote and preserve local independent ( and fast disappearing ) music venues throughout the country . The trust was formed in 2014 and more information can be found at their website http://www.musicvenuetrust.com/about/

It got me thinking about all the small venues I frequented in the past and the great gigs I saw in them , many of which are no longer operating as such any more or even there at all ( Bradford Queen’s Hall and Rios spring to mind ) . I recently saw Hayseed Dixie at the Picturedrome in Holmfirth ( pictured above ) : a fantastic place in a picturesque village that is a favourite with bands as well as punters . Despite not being that far from where I live , I don’t often make the effort to make the journey and after the gig I gave myself a little telling-off about it . These little gems , many of which are steeped in British music history , need supporting if we want to see them continue in the current challenging environment of O2 Academies and the like . I’m as guilty as the next person of taking the easy option or not bothering at all and this is something I hope to improve in the future .

Hayseed Dixie were great , by the way . They’ve been purveying their gleeful brand of bluegrass rock covers , plus the odd original , for many years now , but , despite many festival near-misses , this is the first time I’ve seen them . From AC/DC and Black Sabbath to the Eagles ,  Pink Floyd and Duelling Banjos , the whole show was fun and a great night out for any music fan of any genre . For those who’ve never come across them , here’s the video for their version of Eye Of The Tiger , the live bits of which were shot at Holmfirth ( plus a couple of my rubbish photos ) :

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Country To Country 2016 Thoughts

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Now we know for sure the lineup for next year’s festival , here’s some thoughts on Country to Country 2016 and what is by far the biggest weekend of the year for UK country music fans . First off , I think it’s another great bill that tries to cover all bases ; mixing up newer acts with older and more established performers , bigger stars with up and comers . The headliners all deserve the spots and nobody can complain about the lack of female presence this year . Bro-country is relatively conspicuous by its absence after last year’s blow out . There is some confusion about why Ashley Monroe is not on the poster for London ( despite being down for Dublin and Glasgow and listing the date on her website ) and there is some talk of her being on one of the satellite stages which seems a bit odd . I’m surprised The Shires didn’t get a main stage slot and I was certain Kenny Chesney was going to be here , but I’m not complaining . Here’s some ‘ off the top of my head ‘ thoughts on the individual artists ( the dates listed are for London ) :

FRIDAY 11 MARCH

Miranda Lambert – As I said yesterday , this is the country star I and many others have wanted to see over here for years and it’s great that C2C have listened to the fans and managed to book her . Still promoting a fine album ( Platinum ) , it’ll be a set full of great songs and I can’t wait .

Dwight Yoakam – Filling the traditional ‘ older fan ‘ slot previously taken by Gill , McBride and Womack , he’s sure to draw a decent number of his own fans and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes down with the increasingly younger O2 crowd .

Thomas Rhett – That should be no problem for the 25 year old Rhett .  He leans a bit too far over on the pop/EDM side of things for me , but I’ve enjoyed some of the songs I’ve heard and he should put on a fun show .

SATURDAY 12 MARCH

Carrie Underwood – A true star , a return headliner , a stupendous singer and already very popular here – does anybody not like Carrie ? I had reservations last time , but I’m much more of a fan now and her forthcoming album ( Storyteller ) is shaping up to be a cracker .

Little Big Town – Another returning act and another of my favourites . A great live act and they’ve showed with Painkiller that the deserved success they had with Tornado wasn’t a one-off .

Sam Hunt – A performer that I’m not that familiar with , despite his big success in the US with his debut Montevallo album ( on which he co-wrote all the tracks ) . He’s definitely part of the pop/EDM/rap crowd , but I’ve liked what I’ve heard and he obviously has something different .

Maddie & Tae – The likeable duo have already proved with their first album that they are more than one-hit wonders and this should be a lot of fun . I think they’re going to go down a storm here .

SUNDAY 13 MARCH

Eric Church – The first time back for Mr Church since he played the UK right at the beginning of his tour for The Outsiders in 2014 . Back then , it seemed as though opinion was divided on the album , but it’s just grown in stature since and still has legs ( no sign of a  new album on the horizon yet ) . This should be a strong end to the festival and it seems clear that Eric has had a hand in picking his support acts for the day .

Kacey Musgraves – Probably the current US country singer with the biggest profile in the UK music press and touring here soon , Kacey is already on her way to being a crossover success in this country and it’s surprising she hasn’t played the festival before . The perfect special guest for the headliner .

Chris Stapleton – Respected country music songwriter who I first became aware of due to Luke Bryan’s Drink A Beer . Now a solo artist and surprising left field CMA nominee with his Traveller album , he’s a good addition to the bill and I’m looking forward to his show .

Andrew Combs – The first C2C act to be announced that I’ve never even heard off . A singer/songwriter with an old school style , this will be interesting and I’m assuming he’s playing because Eric Church is a fan .

There you go . Lots of other announcements to come ( the smaller stages and the CMA Songwriters Series etc.) and tickets on sale at 10am Friday . I’ll be there and I promise that I’ll stop going on about it here for a while .

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Somethin’ Good

The big announcement isn’t until 6pm tonight , but Miranda Lambert’s website may have jumped the gun ( since removed ) and revealed that the C2C Festival Friday night in London will be headlined by herself supported by Ashley Monroe ( of course ) , Dwight Yoakam and Thomas Rhett . If true , this is fantastic news : Miranda , as far as I know , has either come top or close to the top of the ‘ who would you like to play next year ? ‘ polls that C2C conduct after each event and is very popular on these shores . It also gives me an excuse to put this song up again because I love it .

It’ll be great to see Ashley Monroe over here as well and I suspect she’ll be surprised how popular and well known she is . Dwight Yoakam should appease some of the fans less enamoured with modern country music and is something of a surprise along with Thomas Rhett ( who I don’t know much about ) . Maybe they’ll have Angaleena Presley on the bill somewhere considering there was a bit of a Pistol Annies reunion recently .

If the other nights match up to this , then it’s going to be another great weekend for UK country fans . I can’t wait for the full announcement tonight ( where all of the above could turn out to be hogwash ! ) .

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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