Dexeter – A Year On for One of UK Country’s Finest and The Album Launch Party

Friday July 3rd 2015 – mark that date in your diary, as that’s the day the long awaited Four Thousand Miles to Nashville launch party takes place. With support from Lucy May and Liv Austen, Dexeter will take over The Barfly Camden and tickets can be bought here. Anyone who has seen Dexeter live, or heard of their legend, will know that this is a show not be missed. Remember, this is the band that got such a crowd of people at Country To Country 2015 that the entrance to The O2 was blocked!

Dexeter Album Launch Party

It’s been quite a 12 month period for Dexeter, who turned up at Country To Country 2014 with little fanfare and almost no public awareness. It was on the Sunday that I got a tweet asking where I was, and on meeting up I met the band the for the very first time, and was given a copy of their first album/EP, Brighter Skies. A couple of months later, after being suitably impressed with their music, I went to Rockingham Racecourse to see them perform live. That was the turning point and since then I’ve been a big fan and got to know the band quite well. Do not fear, my friendship does and will not interfere with my objectivity, and any reviews of their music or performances are and will never be positively biased in any way. That would make a mockery of both myself and the band.

Disclaimers aside, as 2014 rolled on more opportunities opened up for Dexeter, as they performed at big festivals such as Yee Haw and Fort San Antone Fest, while supporting 2 UK country juggernauts The Shires and Ward Thomas on their first co-headline tour. Tales of their great gigs and music began to make waves online and their fan base grew exponentially, as they became the unofficial people’s band of UK country music.

They kicked off 2015 with an afternoon slot at Midwinterfest in Devon, before driving back to London to perform at Hannah Jane Lewis’ EP launch at The Borderline. In this time they also launched a Pledge Music crowd sourcing campaign for their second album, which was funded in under 4 days. You can pre-order the album here, which has the marvellous title Four Thousand Miles to Nashville – probably an homage to some literary genius admired by millions 😉

Dexeter Performing at Country To Country 2015

It was also in 2015 they took on the management services of Annette over at Think Country, and have gigs lined up with the likes of Honey Rider, Sasha McVeigh and Sonia Leigh, Paul Carella and a return to the Fort San Antone Fest in October. I caught up with principle songwriter and guitar guru Gareth after their gig at Country 2 Country, and asked him about the experience:

So C2C2015… What an incredible experience! We actually arrived at the O2 a little later than the previous day, found some breakfast and pondered the day ahead. We had noticed a little movement around Twitter so we were expecting maybe 30 or 40 people to meander past us and see what was going on. We sat in the town square for about two hours and were really beginning to worry about it.

After some strong coffee we gathered our thoughts and our belongings and headed backstage to collect our instruments and warm up – Dee was terrified she had forgotten every single lyric. We hustled through the crowd to the stage to see most of Emma Jane’s incredible set – her performance set the bar really high. When she finished we began to set up and noticed people drifting towards the Big Entrance stage, so staring only at the floor we began our first song. As we hit the last chord of Something Gold the entire atrium exploded. We looked around and just saw faces everywhere. Everyone was smiling and cheering. We couldn’t believe it.

Halfway through the set, the stage manager asked us to move everyone forward to create more room at the back – it was unbelievably humbling and overwhelming, wonderful and frightening all at the same time. By the end of the set, we were deliriously happy. The crowd had been so supportive and LOUD! We came off stage and were whisked straight off to the signing area to find a queue there! We just couldn’t take it all in.

We did a few interviews and about half hour later Deeanne and I found a quiet place between the two stages. We just hugged and the last hour had been so overwhelming we cried! We were so grateful to be part of such an incredible weekend, a really special moment in UK music. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

I’d be surprised if the album launch party at The Barfly Camden doesn’t sell out very quickly, and especially with such great support. I’ve been a big fan of Liv’s music for some time now and her EP Working Man’s Dream is still played regularly. I don’t know much about Lucy May but have heard enough good things to know that she is a great addition to an already great line up. I’ll see you there.

Dexeter Tickets

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Single / Video Review: Lewis & Leigh – Devil’s in the Detail

Last October the self labelled Celticana duo Lewis & Leigh released their debut EP, Night Drives. I never got round to reviewing it at the time, which is my bad, as it’s a fantastic collection of 4 songs, showing off their prowess as musicians, songwriters and superb vocalists. Fast forward 6 months and their 2nd EP, Missing Years, is set for release in April and can be pre-ordered on iTunes. I’ll be doing a review of the EP at a later date, but just today they released the video for the one of the songs, Devil’s in the Detail.

A bit of information about the video shoot: We filmed the video ourselves at an old mansion in Suffolk using just our iPhones and the brilliant 8mm app. We stumbled upon the location in between gigs earlier this month and felt like the ghostly, old-world vibe suited the song perfectly. It tells you something about how far technology has come when you can produce a piece of film like this, just using a phone. Granted the average new smartphone costs more than a laptop, but still – it’s very impressive.

They are absolutely right about the location, which fits the haunting vocals like a glove. I urge you to watch and listen with headphones on, as the intro starts off with a different track in each ear, and that continues throughout the song, with vocals and other instrumentation coming through both. The song is about a relationship that is not quite as all might seem from afar. The timing of this song is uncanny, given that I watched Gone Girl last night, but that’s neither here nor there!

The tone of the video is creepy and quite scary, and given the message of the song that suits it down to the ground. Especially when two thirds into the song we get Years gone missing, time is chipping away repeated to a crescendo, that will have anyone looking at their own relationship and worrying it could relate to them too. The close ups of certain parts of the decor in the mansion at parts of the song where The Devil’s in the Detail is mentioned is a great double reference of the title.

As ever, Lewis & Leigh’s vocals are outstanding, with the power and emotion of their harmonies really making their mark, and showing once again, that few can match them. The video is a great accompaniment to a superb song, but I do wonder what this would be like performed live. In a dimly lit room, and if they managed to get candlelight, it could be something very special indeed. I have a growing list of people I want to see play live in 2015, with Lewis & Leigh firmly on that list. As for Celticana, it’s certainly on the Americana spectrum, and I want to hear more.

Website: lewisandleigh.com
Facebook: /lewisandleighmusic
Twitter: @LewisandLeigh

Categories: Music Reviews, Single Reviews, Video Reviews | Tags: | Leave a comment

Gig Review: CMA Song Writers Series – Kix Brooks, Brandy Clark, Sam Palladio, Jessi Alexander & Jon Randall – The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

Last year I could only listen in awe as people regaled stories of how great the likes of Striking Matches were at the CMA Song Writers Series, a now traditional event that takes place the Friday before Country To Country (C2C) kicks off. I say traditional, but now C2C has been announced as a 3 day festival in 2016, starting on the Friday, the future of the CMA Song Writers Series is unknown. I can only hope the sell out crowd last Friday was proof enough that it should be continued, and scheduled for the Thursday before C2C starts next year.

Speculation and uncertainty aside, I wasn’t going to miss such a well regarded night of music this year, and as soon as Brandy Clark was announced I booked tickets. Brandy sat right at the very top of my wish list of artists to come over to the UK so her involvement was a dream come true. Friday March 6th was to be my only flirtation with C2C this year, at least up until that very date when a few plans changed, but that’s another story for another time.

I think coming from a background of rock music, from the 60s through to the 80s and some of the 90s, the concept of song writers, known and utilised by many acts in a genre, is quite alien to me. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say I didn’t really know who Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall were, or any of the other big name song writers in country music. I did know of Brandy Clark as a songwriter, but only because I was such a huge Kacey Musgraves fan and Brandy’s co-write credit of Follow Of Your Arrow was well publicised. I came to know much more about Brandy when she released her debut album 12 Stories, and Sam Palladio I knew from the Nashville TV show and seeing him support Striking Matches last year. Kix Brooks was also new to me, knowing of Brooks and Dunn, but not their music.

Kix Brooks was the host of the evening, and within minutes my ignorance of his career melted away as he felt like an old friend, such was his warming personality and engaging delivery of his stories. One such story told of how he’d been chatting with a guy who wanted to propose to his girlfriend on stage at a Brooks and Dunn show and had been chatting back forth with Kix leading up to the concert to get everything organised. When it came time to get them on stage it seemed both the guy and his future fiancee had both changed their minds and were mortified at the mere thought of joining Kix. Being the strong personalty that he is, Kix got them up, got him to propose and the gig continued. It wasn’t until the next day that he got an email from the original guy wondering who it was that Kix got on stage, because it wasn’t him and his girlfriend!

Kix Brooks - CMA Song Writers Series - The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

Kix Brooks is a performer through and through, and his voice has moments of tenderness and others where the gravelly tones tell a story of many years on the road. You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

 was my particular favourite of the four songs he did, and his songs and stories were enough for me to want to check out more of his work, a familiar trend for the evening.

Brandy Clark was the most familiar to me, having played her 12 Stories album a lot over the last year, and she added another level of charm with her unassuming presence and an aura of someone who feels utterly blessed to be in the position she is. She was softly spoken as she played Mama’s Broken Heart with a minimal introduction, but opened up a lot more when talking about her second song, which we soon realised was to be Follow Your Arrow – the song she co-wrote with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, the latter of which went on to record and make it famous. I say famous, but I think it’s more well known in the UK than the US, as Brandy seemed to think it wasn’t a big hit and was pleasantly surprised to see we both knew the song and sung a long with her.

Brandy Clark - CMA Song Writers Series - The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

As brilliant as her album is, Brandy Clark is an artist that is even better to see and hear sing live. Her voice is flawless, and though it’s a cliche I no doubt overuse on this website, Brandy does get lost in the music when she is on stage. Though she didn’t play Stripes as I was hoping, I was pleased to hear Get High, which led to Kix joking we were all potheads as well as drunks, as he’d mentioned earlier. I don’t think anyone on that stage was expecting to be playing to an audience of people who like country as much people back in the States.

I already knew from seeing him last year that Sam Palladio was as much a musician in real life as his Gunnar character that he plays on screen in Nashville, so I knew what to expect. He kicked off with Fade In To You and If I Didn’t Know Better, both from the Nashville show, and I still marvel at his ability to get those high lingering notes with such ease and control. As delicate as some of those moments were, he put absolutely everything into Lightning Bones, one of the three of his own songs that he sung. It was a rockier number with a lot of soul that saw Sam play his guitar to within an inch of its life.

Sam Palladio - CMA Song Writers Series - The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

Even though Sam was a musician before his acting break on Nashville, he still seems quite unsure of his own songwriting talents, something he has absolutely nothing to worry about. Jessi Alexander said what we were all thinking, in telling him to cut an album so that we could all buy it. Well, she actually said download it, but I still physical copies where possible, so I’ll take a CD thanks Sam, or even Vinyl if you’re feeling adventurous. It was the second time I’d heard Wake Me Up In Nashville and the story that inspires it tugs at your heartstrings, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s yet to hear it – just go see him live when the opportunity arises.

Jessi Alexander was the one person I came out of this show marveling at the most, and she’s every bit as good as any artist making waves in the charts today, and then some. The voice, the poise, the guitar playing and the undeniably world class writing ability – that’s the important part, but she’s also a pretty lady too, so absolutely no reason for her not to be played hourly by country radio and TV stations the world over. She sang a couple of songs she’d written for Blake Shelton, Drink On It and Mine Would Be You, both of which went to number 1 in America, but it was her Lee Brice track that had me welling up.

Jessi Alexander - CMA Song Writers Series - The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

I Drive Your Truck is the song inspired by of a guy who was on the radio talking about his son who had died overseas fighting in the services. The interview was on Memorial Day and the interviewer asked what he was going to do that day, to which the father said he was gonna ‘drive his truck’. It was one of the co-writers, Connie Harrington, that heard the radio interview and immediately pulled over and phoned Jessi. They actually went one step further and when the record went to number 1 then tracked him down to tell him ‘we wrote this song about you’ and invited him to the number 1 party, which he attended. It’s obvious just from the way she tells stories, why she’s such an amazing songwriter.

Jessi’s last song was one she said was was recorded by Joe McElderry, and being that we are Miley Cyrus fans in our house, I immediately connected the dots and worked out it was The Climb she was talking about. I’m a big fan of this song anyway, but to see it sung by its creator, and with such passion, well it just took my breath away.

Jon Randall was the last to play each time, and he said that it was tough having to go after Jessi and her number 1 hits every time. However, being one of Dierks Bentley’s buddies and song writing partner meant he was no stranger to successful songs himself. Because I was sat on the left and Jon was sat far right on the stage, and with him wearing a cap, the lighting I meant I never saw his face all night (the camera had a better zoom than my eyes!). I didn’t need to though, as the emotion in his voice and the passion in his playing shone through on their own, and like Jessi I am sat there wondering why he’s not a huge star in his own right.

Jon Randall - CMA Song Writers Series - The O2 Indigo, London – March 6th 2015

One secret weapon Jon does have in his arsenal is that of being the co-writer of Whiskey Lullaby, with songwriting legend Bill Anderson. It’s a song that was cut by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss and won CMA Song of the Year in 2005. Jon’s singing of this was the highlight of his participation for me, being that it’s an incredible song and he along with wife Jessi Alexander sung it effortlessly and sublimely. Jessi and Jon accompanied each other throughout each others sets and added an extra layer of depth to the performances.

You may remember I mentioned Striking Matches earlier? Well I’d heard a whisper that they may turn up, and they did just that, singing one of the songs from their new album, namely Make a Liar Out Of Me. As much as I like the lyrics and vocals that they provide, it’s always the guitar wizardry I look forward to most in their performances and they didn’t disappoint. I saw them play 3 times last year but I think they’ve actually managed to take things to an even higher level. I get visibly excited watching them do things with a guitar I have never seen before, grinning from ear to ear as they seemingly grew extra arms to do what they almost impossibly appear to do. They played just the one song, but I have their London gig in May to look forward to seeing more. This video of their performance is from Nashville Over Here who has lots more videos on his YouTube channel.

The whole evening was breathtakingly good from start to finish, and the combination of acoustic music with superb singer / songwriters is unparalleled. I think, even more than the big arena performances, it’s become my favourite part of Country To Country, and live music in general, and I dearly hope it returns again next year.

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Video of the Week: Katie Nicholas – Sweet Talk

Video of the Week

For this very first Video of the Week I’ve chosen someone who not only makes great music, but also makes fantastic videos too, all by herself. If that is not a fitting first video to be showcased in this feature then I don’t know what is. So without further ado, I bring you Katie Nicholas, and her song Sweet Talk.

Sitting firmly on the pop side of country Sweet talk is as charming lyrically and vocally as the video that accompanies it. A song about being strung along is something I’m sure lots can identify with, and as quirky and fun as the video is, the message is a serious one to many people. As if writing a song, playing the instruments and putting it all together wasn’t enough, the video for Sweet Talk is a masterpiece of creativity too.

In a very busy week that culminates in her album Dizzy being released this Saturday, we caught up for a quick interview, and here’s what Katie had to say:

Tell us a bit about your music and how you started.

I’ve always been singing since I was a kid, mostly musicals (always been quite dramatic!) but then became inspired by my Dad’s musicial ability with the guitar. I also took a shine to Dolly Parton and her charming presence on stage and saw myself chattering away with my big – oversized at the time – guitar and singing sweet songs.

But in terms of when I started making my own music, it was a gradual process as I found my style. I always took an interest in telling stories, in a quirky and crafted way. I guess my music started properly once I released my track Chemistry online as a Valentine’s present for my boyfriend. It was a simple video I made in my bedroom, but it ended up circulating virally and ended up with over 110,000 views!

Your videos are quite spectacular, and I understand they are all your own work. How long does it take to film and edit?

Thank you! Yeah, I do all my filming (unless stated otherwise), directing, editing and animation! It does take longer than I’d like – mainly at the moment because I’m a 9-5 designer working in Advertising… but I make time! Chemistry took 3 days, Boots (my first animation) took 3 months and Sweet Talk was a project that I worked with on and off. I aim to really plan my time though to make sure I can keep up a consistent presence on my channel this year!

You played Country 2 Country this past weekend – what was that like?

I was truly so happy to have been picked to play at such a brilliant event, especially as I’ve not been on the circuit for too long – I met so many lovely people, other artists I love and supporters of my music! It was great fun and meant a lot to me that day.

You have an album coming out this weekend – what can expect from it and how has the process leading up to its release been? The schedule of things to do on your website looks mind boggling!

Yes my album Dizzy is out this weekend and I can’t quite tell you how I feel. The process leading up to it? Well it’s been a long one. As I do this all independently, once getting all the manufacturers out the way, sorting the barcodes, tunecodes and admin… the designing, the actual process of getting to a place where I felt it was “ready” to release was mental. I’m quite the perfectionist and it took me a great deal of time (well over a year) to appreciate and choose what tracks I felt best represent me, or at least the first stage of my songwriting. I feel truly that this album is a collection of my earliest songs, memories, and pretty much a teenage girl figuring out what love is and what it isn’t – and I know that’s such a cliche thing to base it on, but I truly write my feelings and each song is a personal experience. I also found themes developing between my songs, especially between Dizzy, Sweet Talk and Carousel – all linking to fairgrounds, whirling rides and the feelings of infatuation. Not to mention Sweet Things (someone asked me why I have so many food references in a LOT of my songs…)

What’s next for Katie Nicholas?

My aim is to try presenting music that is where I’m at now… I’ve wrote so much more material with more complex chord progressions, thoughtful lyrics and I think I might try explore a new development of my music. Not to mention I aim to support other creative unsigned and self-sufficient artists like myself create a “buzz” around their music with my next big project, Busy Bee. I have SO many things in store for that – it will bee the bees knees! 😉

Thanks Katie!

As an added extra I’m throwing in a second video, that being Katie’s album teaser – I know, I’m just too good to you all.

From that teaser we can hear that she shows her softer side on the album too, in what promises to be a very accomplished debut. As the sun shines more every day, we could have an early contender for album of the summer.

Website: itskatiecreative.co.uk
Facebook: /KatieNicholasMusic
TWITTER: @KatieCreative_
Instagram: @itskatienicholas

Categories: Interviews, Video of the Week | Tags: | Leave a comment

EP Review: Liv Austen – Workin’ Man’s Dream

EP Review: Liv Austen - Workin' Man's Dream Liv Austen is yet another example how powerful a music discovery tool Twitter is these days, as we crossed paths on there last year, and I was immediately drawn to her voice, and piano playing. This debut EP from Liv actually came out late last year, but with Christmas and man flu (what, no sympathy?) I’m only now getting round to giving it the attention it so richly deserves.

The first track, Rain On My Side, opens with some unmistakably country stings, before Liv’s voice joins them. It’s almost instantly that you hear these vocals that have such wonderfully smooth tone and clarity, and wonder why you haven’t heard them before. It’s great to hear a song that extols the virtues of rain and storms, as they are both things I love to sit inside and watch, and listen to. The metaphor of rain washing away the lonely feeling works well too, away from my literal interpretation!

Breathe Out starts a bit rockier, thank to the guitar intro. The song softens with Liv’s vocals, but then builds nicely to the chorus. It’s a song that has Liv assuring us that she’s fine on her own, but she later declares there is nobody out there for her, and the confidence turns to vulnerability. Even when taking it up a gear, Liv’s voice never falters, and retains that creamy resonance throughout.

I’m almost certain that The Guts You Always Had is the song I heard last year, as the tip toeing piano feels very familiar. That’s Liv on Piano in case you were wondering, because as well as a singer and an actress, she’s a pianist too. This is one of the song’s where I visualise (if you’ve read my reviews before you’ll know the visualisation is a big part of music for me) Liv sitting at the piano with a spotlight picking her out on an otherwise dark stage. This is the one, while not taking anything away from the other songs, that takes Liv to the next level, and is a gorgeous song, both in the sound and the lyrics. It tells the tale of her relationship with her sister and the contrasting traits they possess. There are times when the song makes me question whether both sisters are still with us, but it works just as well either way.

The EP ends finishes the title track Working Man’s Dream, which could be just as much at home in a honky tonk bar in the southern states of America as it is in Liv’s hometown of London. It’s an incredibly catchy song talking of the desire to succeed as a singer, which ends with a back to reality slowing of the tempo and stripped down vocal. It’s as if the end of the song is Liv waking up from her own dream. It’s an incredibly radio friendly and upbeat song that would give Liv the opportunity to have a lot fun performing live.

It’s an EP of such high quality that I do think Liv Austen is a name that deserves to be known by a lot more people, and coincidentally she was announced to be performing at Country To Country 2015 on one of the pop up stages just today. You can catch her in the Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday 7th April at 4pm, and based on the evidence of this EP, I urge you to do just that. In just 4 songs, Liv shows incredible versatility in her voice and style and is obviously a very talented singer / songwriter, appealing to both fans of modern and traditional country music.

Get Working Man’s Dream on iTunes and follow Liv on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: EP Reviews, Music Reviews | Tags: | Leave a comment

EP Review: Liv Austen – Workin’ Man’s Dream

EP Review: Liv Austen - Workin' Man's Dream

EP Review: Liv Austen – Workin’ Man’s Dream

Liv Austen is yet another example how powerful a music discovery tool Twitter is these days, as we crossed paths on there last year, and I was immediately drawn to her voice, and piano playing. This debut EP from Liv actually came out late last year, but with Christmas and man flu (what, no sympathy?) I’m only now getting round to giving it the attention it so richly deserves.

The first track, Rain On My Side, opens with some unmistakably country stings, before Liv’s voice joins them. It’s almost instantly that you hear these vocals that have such wonderfully smooth tone and clarity, and wonder why you haven’t heard them before. It’s great to hear a song that extols the virtues of rain and storms, as they are both things I love to sit inside and watch, and listen to. The metaphor of rain washing away the lonely feeling works well too, away from my literal interpretation!

Breathe Out starts a bit rockier, thank to the guitar intro. The song softens with Liv’s vocals, but then builds nicely to the chorus. It’s a song that has Liv assuring us that she’s fine on her own, but she later declares there is nobody out there for her, and the confidence turns to vulnerability. Even when taking it up a gear, Liv’s voice never falters, and retains that creamy resonance throughout.

I’m almost certain that The Guts You Always Had is the song I heard last year, as the tip toeing piano feels very familiar. That’s Liv on Piano in case you were wondering, because as well as a singer and an actress, she’s a pianist too. This is one of the song’s where I visualise (if you’ve read my reviews before you’ll know the visualisation is a big part of music for me) Liv sitting at the piano with a spotlight picking her out on an otherwise dark stage. This is the one, while not taking anything away from the other songs, that takes Liv to the next level, and is a gorgeous song, both in the sound and the lyrics. It tells the tale of her relationship with her sister and the contrasting traits they possess. There are times when the song makes me question whether both sisters are still with us, but it works just as well either way.

The EP ends finishes the title track Working Man’s Dream, which could be just as much at home in a honky tonk bar in the southern states of America as it is in Liv’s hometown of London. It’s an incredibly catchy song talking of the desire to succeed as a singer, which ends with a back to reality slowing of the tempo and stripped down vocal. It’s as if the end of the song is Liv waking up from her own dream. It’s an incredibly radio friendly and upbeat song that would give Liv the opportunity to have a lot fun performing live.

It’s an EP of such high quality that I do think Liv Austen is a name that deserves to be known by a lot more people, and coincidentally she was announced to be performing at Country To Country 2015 on one of the pop up stages just today. You can catch her in the Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday 7th April at 4pm, and based on the evidence of this EP, I urge you to do just that. In just 4 songs, Liv shows incredible versatility on her voice and style and is obviously a very talented singer / songwriter, appealing to both fans of modern and traditional country music.

Get Working Man’s Dream on iTunes and follow Liv on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: EP Reviews | Tags: | Leave a comment

Midwinterfest – Full Ward Thomas, Dexeter and Luke & Mel Sets, Photos, Next Year & More!

Midwinterfest is the country music weekender that took place in Torquay last weekend and by all accounts was a terrific few days of music. Organised by Alan West it’s already got a date for next year, that being 15th-17th January – so mark your diaries, nothing will keep me away from this one. Dart Radio were actually there interviewing and recording, and on Monday they broadcast a show that featured much of that footage, including the full Ward Thomas set. Don’t worry if you missed it because they uploaded the whole thing, in two parts to Soundcloud. At about 1 hour 40 minutes into part 1 the Ward Thomas set starts, and near the very start of second part you’ll hear the first of a few new Ward Thomas songs.

 
It doesn’t end there though, as David Steane was in attendance and recorded complete sets from Dexeter and Luke & Mel, which you can now watch. Thanks David! There’s even a collaboration with Luke & Mel at the end of the Dexeter set, so be sure to watch it all.

So that’s audio and video, what about pictures I hear you ask? Well that’s where super snapper Andy M Watson comes in, as he was the official photographer for the weekend and has very kindly allowed to use the following photos. You can see the full albums over on his Facebook page, and he has a website on the way, so keep a look out for that.

Alan West at Midwinterfest 2014

Alan West at Midwinterfest 2014

Luke & Mel at Midwinterfest 2014

Luke & Mel at Midwinterfest 2014

The Swing Commanders at Midwinterfest 2014

The Swing Commanders at Midwinterfest 2014

Dexeter at Midwinterfest 2014

Dexeter at Midwinterfest 2014

Ags Connolly at Midwinterfest 2014

Ags Connolly at Midwinterfest 2014

Ward Thomas at Midwinterfest 2014

Ward Thomas at Midwinterfest 2014

Raintown at Midwinterfest 2014

Raintown at Midwinterfest 2014

Sunday Finale Midwinterfest 2014

Sunday Finale Midwinterfest 2014

This last photo is one I had to include to as well, as it highlights just how good a photographer Andy is. This photo of Deeanne from Dexeter has it all – great composition, sharp and catching the moment perfectlly. Remember to check out all the photos from the Midwinterfest weekend at Andy’s Facebook page.

Deeanne from Dexeter at Midwinterfest 2014

Deeanne from Dexeter at Midwinterfest 2014

It all looks and sounds like the perfect weekend, especially when you realise it all takes place in a hotel, which you can stay in. So you can have 3 days of music, eating and drinking, without setting foot outside, if you so desire. Keep an eye on the official website for more details of next year’s line-up and booking details.

Categories: Midwinterfest | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ward Thomas Announce New Single and Repackaged Album

Earlier today Ward Thomas announced the release of the next single from the their hugely successful From Where We Stand album, the upbeat and humourous A Town Called Ugley. This song is always a crowd favourite live and in case you were wondering, Ugley is actually a real place, and a rather picturesque one in Essex.

A Town Called Ugley

A Town Called Ugley

An animated music video is on the way, but for now you can stream the song on Soundcloud, where the accompanying picture gives us an idea of the animation style – looking good!

Also released on March 2nd will be a repacked version of the aforementioned From Where We Stand which in addition to the 12 original songs will also have a cover of Michael Jackson’s classic ‘Man In The Mirror’ (previously released on BBC Radio 2: Sounds of the 80s, if it’s the same version), ‘Who We Are’, a song written as an emotive tribute to their mother, as well as live versions of tracks recorded on last autumn’s UK tour.

I’m very keen to see what the live tracks are, and am hoping for the inclusion of the title track From Where I Stand, which for me is their best to date and gave me goosebumps when watching live at The Green Note in London last July.

The Ward Thomas headline tour kicks off in Bristol on March 11th, and to date tickets are still available here for all legs, but be quick, these Ward Thomas girls are becoming very popular.

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If UK Country Music Acts Were the Stars of the Nashville TV Show

This started out as a much more serious topic, of trying to figure where the Nashville equivalent would be in the UK, and what would be our Opry and Ryman? Don’t ask me how, but my mind took a tangent to thinking who from the UK country music scene would I have in place of the stars of the Nashville show. This is a very lighthearted article and some of these links are very tenuous, so please don’t take offense as an artist or fan, absolutely none is intended.

Raintown as Rayna Jaymes and Luke Wheeler

Raintown as Rayna Jaymes and Luke Wheeler

Raintown as Rayna Jaymes and Luke Wheeler

As the veterans of UK country music this was an obvious pick, and as a recently married couple, could Paul and Claire have done what Rayna and Luke are on the same track to do?

Hannah Jane Lewis as Juliette Barnes

Hannah Jane Lewis as Juliette Barnes

Hannah Jane Lewis as Juliette Barnes

Both are young, blonde and hitting the country pop market, but with traditional influences. Juliette could probably do with some of Hannah’s work with schools to improve her public image and from what I’ve seen Hannah isn’t as big a diva as Juliette…but who knows what goes on behind closed doors 😉

Gary Quinn as Deacon Claybourne

Gary Quinn as Deacon Claybourne

Gary Quinn as Deacon Claybourne

Another veteran journeyman of the UK country scene and often seen gigging with Raintown, much like Deacon is with Luke in the show. I don’t think the love triangle exists between these guys as does on the show though…

Jess Roberts as Scarlett O’Connor

Jess Roberts as Scarlett O'Connor

Jess Roberts as Scarlett O’Connor

Brilliant new singer songwriter who is quieter than her contemporaries and infinitely more talented than she realises. Jess or Scarlett? It could well be either, and we await new music from both with baited breath.

Richard Clarke as Avery Barkley

Richard Clarke as Avery Barkley

Richard Clarke as Avery Barkley

An artist in his own right and guitarist on Hannah Jane Lewis’ band. if you’ve watched Nashville you’ll be thinking how eerily similar this is, except for the tempestuous relationship part. Both Richard and Avery have a wild side though 😉

The Shires as Gunnar Scott and Zoey Dalton

The Shires as Gunnar Scott and Zoey Dalton

The Shires as Gunnar Scott and Zoey Dalton

Ben and Gunnar are both singer songwriters from the UK, not that you’d know from Sam Palladio’s accent on Nashville. Add in the gorgeous, almost angelic voices of Crissie and Zoe and I think this comparison works pretty well, relationship status aside.

Ward Thomas as Maddie and Daphne

Ward Thomas as Maddie and Daphne

Ward Thomas as Maddie and Daphne

The ages might be a little off, but other than that this a perfect match – sisters with gorgeous voices and fantastic harmonies. The question is – who is who?

Gareth Thomas and Deeanne Dexeter as Will Lexington and Layla Grant

Gareth Thomas and Deeanne Dexeter as Will Lexington and Layla Grant

Gareth Thomas and Deeanne Dexeter as Will Lexington and Layla Grant

This is where it gets a bit tenuous, but bear with me! Both came from relative obscurity and have made a name from themselves in the last 12 months. Will and Layla have a sham marriage while Gareth and Deeanne have a band marriage! Gareth and Deeanne have better voices though and Gareth prefers his wife to his personal trainer!

That’s as far as I got, and I stopped at casting Jeff Fordham for fear of ruffling feathers! So, what do you think – agree or disagree, I’d love for you to leave a comment and if you have any of your own suggestions, go for it!

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EP Review: The Shires – The Green Note EP

The Shires - The Green Note EP

The Shires – The Green Note EP

The world conspired against me last year, meaning that I missed out on seeing The Shires perform live in September and November. I was however lucky enough to be in attendance at the their showcase with Cassadee Pope back in May, so with the singles I had heard on the radio, I had some idea of what to expect from this EP. It had a few things in its favour already, and those being 1) it was recorded at my favourite venue, The Green Note in London, 2) it is a live recording, rather than a multi track studio recording which I love, and 3) the cover of the EP is a photograph from Flex, who is the most inspiring music photographer I’ve encountered to date.

The EP starts off with Ben on piano, and already I’m taken back to the aforementioned showcase and I can imagine him tickling the ivories as he did so masterfully back then. Crissie’s sweet vocals soon join and I’m reminded of what a beautiful sound these guys make when they perform. I know from personal experience that the acoustics are great in The Green Note and State Lines sounds magnificent. This is a song that likens the personality and traits of the protagonist to areas in America and characteristics of those areas. It’s a very clever song, that builds to some of the most brilliant harmonies in the business today, something The Shires are getting somewhat of a name for.

Nashville Grey Skies is their most famous song to date, and the more stripped down treatment it receives actually suits it really well. It’s the second song in a row that talks of America, well Nashville to be precise, and bringing the feel and scene to the UK. Hey, if anyone is going to do that it’s going to be The Shires, and along with their gigging buddies from last year Ward Thomas, we are well on the way to having that Nashville they talk of.

Black and White takes on a more delicate tempo about Love, and for the first part is almost a capella, if not for Ben’s finger picking on guitar. One of my must haves for music is believability. I’ve been to gigs where the performer is phoning in their performance and it’s not an enjoyable experience for them or for me in the audience. That’s one of Ben and Crissie’s greatest strengths, as every word seems to come directly from the deepest part of their hearts. When that’s a love song like this, it makes all the difference and turns it from a just song into a stunning piece of art that grabs you, holds you and envelops you in it’s glory. I particularly like how the song builds up as the message is emphasised and the song progresses.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

When the next track started I had an inkling I recognised it, and then when Ben’s vocals kicked in I knew it was a song I had heard before. In fact I even found myself singing along when Crissie joined, but such was their take own take on Place Your Hands that I got completely and utterly lost in the song. It was only after it had finished that I was able to get my thoughts back and have that of course, that was by Reef originally moment. You don’t just listen to The Shires, you experience them.

With the final song I get the impression that this duo from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire have a liking for America, as Same alludes to that big land across the Atlantic. It’s an up tempo song that talks of how things may be different depending on where you are, some things stay the same. It’s a great way to close the EP, and helps to reinforce the impression one gets from just 5 songs, that The Shires are a versatile act with lots to offer and much more to come.

The Green Note EP may only be 5 songs long, but has such depth that it feels like more, and on loop it feels fresh every time. It’s an old cliche, but it really does get better with every listen, and I talk from experience because as I type this I’ve probably listened to it approximately 10 times today. Brave is The Shires’ debut album and it comes out next month. Based on The Green Note EP it’s going to well and truly put them on the map and will be an early contender for album of the year. Today is Thursday, and tomorrow morning tickets go on sale for their first solo headline tour, so be sure to check out their website from 9am tomorrow.

You can order The Green Note EP and pre-order Brave on theshiresmusic.com

Categories: EP Reviews | Tags: | 1 Comment

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