Posts Tagged With: Jess Roberts

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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Gig Review: Ward Thomas, The Black Feathers & Jess Roberts at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

The Green Note in Camden, London is a very intimate and very special venue, which I first visited to see The Toy Hearts back in April. I can’t think of a better venue in which to see Ward Thomas for the first time, as they ride the crest of a very fast rising wave of success. Just two days before the gig, their debut album From Where We Stand was listed at number 20 in the midweek charts. This would be a big achievement for one of the big hitters from Nashville, so for a relatively new act from the UK, it’s nothing short of remarkable. This is no fluke though, as anyone who has heard Ward Thomas’ album will attest to its exceptionally high quality.

Jess Roberts

After hearing Jess’ EP a few months ago I was keen to see her perform live, so when it was announced that she would be supporting Ward Thomas, well, all the pieces fell in place for me. Jess was the first of the three acts to take the stage, and from the very start of her 4 song set she was the picture and sound of class and serenity. When Jess sings the whole room is silent, captivated by a voice that feels every single word of every song.

Jess Roberts at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

Jess Roberts at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

It was great to hear a couple of songs from Jess’ EP, Rose Coloured Glasses and What You Never Had, and to hear them sounding so fantastic. Jess sung so beautifully that I completely forgot a conversation we’d had on Twitter 48 hours earlier, where I discovered Jess had lost her voice. This is why her set was cut down to 4 songs, but she was so good that it never entered my head that she wasn’t at 100%. This leaves me wondering what a fully fit Jess Roberts sounds like, if she was that good last night with a poorly throat? I’ll find out at the inaugural YeeHaw Festival in September.

The Black Feathers

This married duo I knew least about going into this gig, other than listening too their EP whilst at work earlier in the week. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan of Ray and Sian last night, as just like Jess before them, they oozed passion and got completely lost in their music. There’s some folk, some roots and some southern rock in there too, and while Ray is great on guitar, it’s their harmonies that shone through the most. They describe them as tight as blood, and that’s pretty spot on.

The Black Feathers at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

The Black Feathers at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

If you are looking for gushing love songs you’ve come to the wrong place, and they even joked at one point that they had written a love song called I Hate You, but in fact it was a song titled You Will Be Mine, I think! When they weren’t wowing us with their music they had us in stitches, with the kind of humour that can only come from a married couple. It’s obviously a very strong relationship that they have, and you can see that when they turn to look at each other during the aforementioned harmonies. According to Sian the album will depend on her success with scratchcards, so let’s hope she gets some good luck as an album from these two is something to look forward to.

Ward Thomas

It was exactly two weeks before this gig that I heard From Where We Stand for the first time, and I’ve listened at least once a day since, usually two or three times actually. It’s got to the point where I have other singles and album stacking up to review, but I can’t bear to take their album out of my CD player. Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park was the last album that had me so entranced, and it’s without a doubt my favourite album of 2014. To put that into perspective, that ranks it above Eric Church’s The Outsiders, which for anyone who knows me will understand how highly I must rate From Where We Stand.

Catherine, Lizzy and band took to the stage, and started to sing a song that wasn’t from their album, or even one of theirs! That shocked me somewhat, but their a capella version of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” was a great way to kick things off, before going into The Good And The Right, which I know well from their EP and album. I had a bit of nerd moment when I said to myself, “that’s track 2 on the album” – told you I’d been listening to it a lot!

The girls sung with such energy and excitement, that the songs were practically bursting out of them. I’m pretty sure Catherine had maybe only a few moments where she wasn’t moving, and the love for the music and the fun they are obviously having is incredibly infectious. As for their sound – it was absolutely perfect, and their harmonies I described as telepathic. There are times when they are either looking away from each other or have their eyes closed, and it seems almost impossible for them to be so in tune with each other, but they nail it, each and every time.

From Where I Stand is my favourite song from the album, and live it took my breath away and gave me a spine tingling moment. I found myself completely lost in that track, as the live performance brought even more emotion. I got a similar feeling during Caldeonia, which seemed to be even more stripped down than on the album, and sounded sensational. By contrast their upbeat songs like Push For The Stride and Town Called Ugley gave us a party atmosphere as Lizzy and Catherine showcased their versatility in spades.

As well as singing they also play guitar on many songs, and when not performing they regale us with stories behind the songs. It seemed like a night of comedy and music, as like The Black Feathers before, these twins from Hampshire were hilarious, and sometimes intentionally so 😉 We also got some new songs, with one called Go To Plan, which may be about Paris, or maybe it’s a Parisian atmosphere, or maybe it was written when they’d just been to Paris – okay, you had to be there! It’s a great song, as is Cartwheels, which wasn’t a definite for their set but they sung at the very end, with no mics and their guitarist behind them. This was another goosebumps song, and left us all in awe of this exceptionally talented duo.

Ward Thomas at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

Ward Thomas at Green Note, London – 25th July 2014

Catherine and Lizzy have such endearing personalities that you’d be willing to forgive less than 100% performances, but you don’t get that, no. From the very start to the last second, Ward Thomas are a superb live act. Credit to their band who back them up brilliantly, and especially Dan on guitar who pulled off some fantastic solos. If I didn’t have plans to see them at YeeHaw, Fort San Anyone Festival and Midwinterfest I’d be disappointed, because Ward Thomas are the kind of act that once seen live, you want to see them again and again. I got to chat to them after the gig and for a couple of 20 year olds who have just recently become the talk of BBC Radio 2, featured on ITV Weekend with Aled Jones and seen chart success, they are incredibly grounded and humble. They are the kind of people that anyone lucky enough to call them their friends, will be all the better off for that. In fact Jess and Black feathers members Ray and Sian were also a delight, and it was lovely to be able to see them play and chat to them too.

The Green Note is to my mind the best venue in London, with an incomparable atmosphere, and last night it was done proud by Ward Thomas, The Black Feathers and Jess Roberts. All three of them had me coming away wanting to see them again, and looking forward to the release of more music. A fantastic night of country, folk, roots from three of the UK’s finest.

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Interview: The Jess Roberts Story So Far

Interview: The Jess Roberts  Story So Far

After being bowled over by her debut EP There’s An Old Saying, I recently caught up with Jess Roberts and found out a bit more behind this exciting young singer/songwriter.

Could you tell us a bit about your beginnings with music and when it became something you pursue full time?

I have always sang ever since I can remember, I used to sit with a Dolly Parton tape and a tape player when I was about 6 years old and would keep pausing the songs every couple of seconds so that I could write out the lyrics and learn them. I always knew this is what I wanted to do as a career but for a long time never thought it would be possible and kind of gave up on it and just saw it as a dream. It wasn’t until I was 18 and started studying music at college, learning about the industry that I realised I could do it.

What led to you going down the route of a country/roots/blues style?

My Dad is a huge lover of Western swing and Rockabilly music so I’ve grown up listening to the likes of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline etc. so that influenced me a lot and I still love it. I never really thought about genre too much when I started to write, I just let it happen and that’s what came out.

While a lot of country music seems to be heading in the more contemporary direction, it’s clear from your music that you have a big appreciation of the classic artists. Which artists, past and present, do you feel have influenced your own work?

Yeah.. I love contemporary country too, but there’s still a huge fanbase for roots music and I want to be a part not letting that style grow old, it would be a shame if that happened because it’s so beautiful. I wouldn’t really say there is one particular artist that influences me, it’s more a sound in general.. I love the feel of bluegrass and the instruments such as banjo, mandolin, double bass and fiddle and I love the simplicity of the melodies in roots music. I think the likes of Ashley Monroe, Lindi Ortega, Andrew Combs & Della Mae use this style particularly well within modern country music.

You’ve just put out your debut EP, There’s An Old Saying, but how long did the whole process take from conception to release?

It took quite a while to bring this EP out. When we first started recording the EP I was writing a lot and still trying to find my ‘Sound’ and so I was changing my mind every week on what songs should go on it, right up until a couple of weeks before the launch when I realised I had to come to a final decision otherwise it wasn’t going to get finished in time.

You wrote all the songs on your EP yourself – how is the writing process for you?

Yeah I did, What You Never Had was the first real song I wrote and I co-wrote this with a friend Sadie Burgin on piano as I didn’t play an instrument at that point in 2012 and then I didn’t really write for a while after that. I started playing guitar at the end of last year and since then I pick it up and write every single day. A lot of it is really rubbish and will never be heard by anyone but it’s become a really helpful way of getting my emotions out. I’d like to start co-writing more though, I have a lot of ideas that I’m unable to get out because I’m not that great at playing guitar and it can become quite frustrating.

There are some pretty deep issues covered, especially in songs such as What You Never Had. Are they inspired by events in your own life?

Yeah, all of my songs are really personal. Sometimes I really worry about letting people hear them because they are so personal and I get scared of what people are going to think and if anyone is going to be able to relate to them. It’s always really nice to hear that people do like them and have been in similar situations.

The EP has live / acoustic feel to it, which suits your music perfectly – was that always the plan?

Yeah I always wanted my first EP to be quite stripped back so that it gives me room to grow and for people to see me grow not only in songwriting and performance but in production too. I think my next EP is going to be really quite different, but I’m not giving anything away just yet!

What’s the story behind your Dad being on the front cover of the EP?

The photos were taken at Hemsby Rock n Roll weekender which is a festival I have gone to with him since I was little and I really liked it. I wanted to keep my first EP really personal and it really mean something and he has been a huge influence to me musically that it was a way of saying thankyou for that I guess.

You had a launch party at The Castle in Manchester – how did that go and what has been the response since?

The Castle is one of my favourite venues to play, it’s a really tiny chapel like looking room and it’s dark and the audience is always so quiet, I love it! I have never headlined a show before, that was the first, I was so surprised at how many people were there and was so grateful for that. I also had Alex Johnson & Seamus Mcloughlin opening the show for me and I am a huge fan of both of their music so it was perfect.

The response to the EP has been incredible, I’ve had such lovely comments. I was very nervous about releasing it as most of those songs hadn’t been heard before so I didn’t know how people were going to react to them.

You are about to embark on a summer tour supporting Ward Thomas – how did that come about, and is recording in Nashville like they are now something you’d like to do?

I am so excited for this! I met Catherine & Lizzy when we played a show in Manchester together in January, at the castle actually! And we became great friends. We toured together throughout February so this will be our second tour together, its so much fun! We travel in a little red van and use our iPhones as a sat nav which never fails to take us to the wrong location. As for Nashville, I’d absolutely love to record there. The musicians they have there are just incredible, it’s definitely something I’m going to look into doing in the near future.

What about the whole experience do you enjoy the most, and do you get nervous before you go on stage?

I get SO nervous before going on stage, but I think I’d be worried if I didn’t. I enjoy the writing process and being on stage performing the most. Any moments where i can just get lost in the music are perfect.

You have recently been announced as playing at the inaugural Yee Haw Festival in September – how does it feel to be performing in a venue like Rockingham Castle?

I actually didn’t know it was in a castle, I have just looked it up.. It’s incredible! I’m looking forward to it even more now, I bet the acoustics are great!

Tell us a bit about the San Antone Festival that takes place in October, and your involvement in that?

The Fort San Antone Country Music Festival is run by myself and the company director Wayne Hadlow. My involvement is booking the bands, designing the posters, putting tickets on sale, social media.. Basically putting the festival together. I wanted to create a festival that gives UK Country artists the exposure they deserve. Fingers crossed it will be a success!

The UK country music scene appears from the outside to be a very friendly and supportive community – is this the case and how does that help?

The UK country music scene is so friendly and supportive, some of my best friends are within this scene and I would never have met them if it wasn’t for us all coming together to play shows and put on events and write together. There’s a lot of jealousy that goes on with a lot of music scenes but that just doesn’t seem to be the case with us, it’s great.

What’s next for Jess Roberts and what can we expect in the future?

Well, I’m touring with Ward Thomas in the Summer. I’m moving to London at the moment too so hopefully some more shows in the city, I’ve only ever played there once! The rest is a bit of a secret right now, hopefully I can share it with you soon!

You can see more of Jess Roberts here:

Twitter: @jessrobmusic
Buy There’s An Old Saying: Bandcamp | iTunes | Amazon

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EP Review: Jess Roberts – There’s An Old Saying

Jess Roberts - There's An Old Saying

Jess Roberts – There’s An Old Saying

I first became aware of Jess Roberts when I saw a video of her singing a duet with Hannah Jane LewisA Life That’s Good from the Nashville television show. Since then I’ve watched as she’s built up to her EP launch, which was this past Thursday in Manchester. It’s a little too far for me on a week day, but I have been listening to There’s An Old Saying today.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than a good voice, but for a 21 year old’s debut release when Rose Coloured Glasses started playing it threw me a bit. What I heard was a an achingly soulful voice, signing a beautifully penned song that managed to sound new and fresh, but with a strong traditional country influence at the same time. You won’t believe that Jess is from Lancashire. and if the aforementioned Nashville needs another English actor then look no further – she’s your girl.

You can tell from Jess’ songs that she a young lady with an old soul, and her writing is mature beyond her years, which is perfect for her style of singing. Rose Coloured Glasses gives a time scale of 3 years of reflection (no pun intended), but it could quite easily be used in a situation looking back decades. Where You’re Alone covers one of the country classic subjects of loneliness, and about needing someone, anyone for that one night. Before you get visions of a bro-country style hook-up song, Jess sings about wanting someone to talk to. I can see a music video of this song, with Jess singing, and the screen splitting into two to show the guy she’s singing about, blissfully unaware, going about his business at home.

It’s worth noting at this point that the guitar playing from Dan Gordon and Luke Thomas, Martyn Roper on Double Bass and Matthew Cleghorn on mandolin compliments Jess’ singing perfectly, and I love that the EP is recorded in live acoustic style, which is my personal favourite.

Nobody Wanted is a song about wanting to make someone proud, could be a parent, a friend or a potential suitor – that’s up to your own interpretation. There’s a line weeds instead of roses which is one ‘s’ away from being Weed Instead of Roses by Ashley Monroe, and as someone Jess likes, I wonder if it’s a nod to Ashley. While the line is very similar, the context is quite different in the two songs. Jess’ voice is spot on in getting the feeling of pain and despair across, and this might be my favourite track on the EP. This is another song that has me visualising scenes as I listen – that’s what great storytelling songs should do.

The EP ends with What You Never Had, which has a longer intro then the other songs, and with those beautiful guitars that can only be a good thing. It’s a song that talks of lost moments, of her Father I’m guessing, or at least the Father of the person’s perspective from whom she is singing from. It covers some pretty heartbreaking times in her life, but with a very positive and forgiving outlook. The finger picking guitar playing throughout enhances the tone and atmosphere brilliantly, and is just another example of how well put together this EP is.

I have to say, There’s An Old Saying is a tremendous debut EP from Jess Roberts, that has limitless replay value and has me wanting to hear more from her already. With some more exposure I think Jess has every chance of following in the footsteps of Ward Thomas and The Shires, in being the next big success story to come out of the ever impressive UK country music scene. Listening to Jess’ EP I think she’s probably quite brilliant live, so getting to one of her gigs this summer has become somewhat of a priority for me.

In case you wondered, the guy on the front cover of the EP is Jess’ Dad, and the title There’s An Old Saying, it’s the first line from the fourth song on the EP, What you Never Had. You can get physical and digital copies of There’s An Old Saying from Jess’ Bandcamp page here.

You can see more of Jess Roberts here:

Twitter: @jessrobmusic

Categories: EP Reviews | Tags: | 1 Comment

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