Posts Tagged With: Raintown

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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Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Interview: Midwinterfest Organiser Alan West

It’s the middle of January – the memory of Christmas has all but gone and it’s cold. It’s a pretty dreary time of year, or at least it used to be. That was before country music stallwart Alan West came up with Midwinterfest – a country music festival that debuts on the south coast of England from January 16th-18th 2015. I caught up with Alan a few days ago and asked him all about his music, and of course, Midwinterfest.

Before we get to Midwinterfest, tell us a bit about your career in music, which includes you as a solo artist and as part of a duo with Steve Black.

I have always loved country music, ever since I was a kid. When I was 6, I saw an English country music singer called Kelvin Henderson playing with his band and I was hooked!! I played a bit whilst I was at school and around 1985 I met a bass player called Steve Elliott. We worked together as West & Elliott until early 2007. Later that year I released my first solo, Nashville recorded album, “Songs from a neophyte”. That lead to a tour with Hal Ketchum and pretty soon after that I got together with Blacky. We have a great working relationship that is based on mutual respect and a very clear understanding that we always do things, whether together or not, for the greater good. It seems to work!!

You’ve been over to Nashville a few times to both record and play – what have those experiences been like?

I LOVE Nashville, it would have to be my second favourite place on earth, and every time I go, it gets better. It’s the finest place on the planet to learn, (assuming you want to!!) very quickly, every aspect, good and bad, of the music industry. Oh, and there’s some great live music there too!!!

How have you seen the country music scene change in the UK over the years, and has it changed for the better?

Of course I’ve seen it change…whether it was for the better or not is all about perception and that is different for everyone. I don’t believe however that the past can affect the future and I am very optimistic about that (the future). Country to Country (C2C), the Nashville TV series, Bob Harris’s love of the music and constant championing of the genre, along with recent significant national radio play for the likes of The Shires and Ward Thomas have really helped country music’s profile and respectability here in the UK. Long may it continue!!

So, Midwinterfest, a country music festival whose inaugural outing will be January 2015 in Torquay. What made you want to embark on such a project?

From 1989 until 2004 I ran a weekender called The Seaton Party at a Holiday Village in Devon. I did about 16 in total, and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them but all good things come to an end. It was on the Sunday of C2C this year when I arrived early and was sat in the green room thinking about some of the acts I’d seen the day before and the buzz that was clearly around the whole event and thought it might be the right time to put something on again.

Midwinterfest

Midwinterfest

Midwinterfest is different to other festivals in that it is held in a hotel in Torquay, where guests stay for the weekend, and even eat together. Why did you go down this route rather than hiring a venue just for the music?

I wanted to keep the basic format of The Seaton Party, because it worked!! The schedule for the weekend is:

Fri 16th January
4pm Check in
6 – 7.15pm Dinner
8pm Alan West & Steve Black with Adam Sweet and Dean Barnes
9.15pm Winter Mountain
10.30pm The Swing Commanders

Sat 17th January
9.30 – 11am Brunch
Midday – 1.30pm Songwriters in the round Steve Black, Raintown, Adam Sweet, John Taylor
2pm Alan West & Steve Black with Adam Sweet and Dean Barnes
3 – 4pm The Gary Quinn Band
6 – 7.15pm Dinner
8pm John Taylor Band
9.15pm Ward Thomas
10.30pm Raintown
12.30am Late Bar Jam

Sun 18th January
8.30 – 9.30pm Breakfast
11.30am Sunday morning finale
1pm lunch

There’s a lot going on and having the event in a hotel means that everyone can relax and enjoy the whole weekend very easily….No taxis, trains or buses to separate accommodation. No designated driver required.No last orders.And, if you can find the time, you can make use of the rather splendid leisure facilities too.

When you started to think about Midwinterfest, did you have the bands you have announced in mind and why have you chosen them specifically?

Yes, pretty much. There was one band I wanted and haven’t got, but I think there may be a chance of adding them to the bill at a later date. Time will tell!!

I chose them first and foremost because I think they are all good at what they do. I also think that between them, they cover a good slice of the very diverse country music genre and will make for a balanced and very enjoyable show.

You’ve just announced a “Songwriters in the Round” show on the Saturday morning – what does that entail and who will be involved?

It entails a bunch of songwriters (Steve Black, Paul & Claire (Raintown), Adam Sweet, John Taylor & maybe others) sitting on the stage together with acoustic guitars and trading songs whilst sharing the finer details of the creation of those songs with the audience. It seems this format is becoming more & more popular here. I love it!!

There is also going to be a late night jam on the Saturday – tell us more

Not so much to tell really.The late night jam was always a very popular segment of The Seaton Party.It’s an opportunity for the bands that have played on Sat night and are staying over to make some music together in the late bar.At Seaton it wasn’t uncommon for it to finish at breakfast.Those were the days!!

Being both the organiser and also playing yourself over the weekend, that’s a lot of pressure. How are you coping with it all so far and what has the response been?

I’ve found a great little hotel (The Derwent) with an operations manager who totally gets want I’m doing and is happy to help with anything I need, the line-up is the one I wanted, my buddy John Taylor is taking care of the sound and I love playing music. If you work with people you trust and respect there needn’t be any pressure. I see it more as a challenge and the biggest part of that for me, was, and will be, spreading the word about a new festival. However something is working because the response really has been exceptional with nearly 50% of the rooms booked already.

If it goes well can we expect to see this return as an annual event?

Yes

If anyone is still making their mind up, what can you say to persuade them to book up for Midwinterfest?
I’m not sure if I’m being honest.I’d like to hope though, that if they were a serious country music fan, they could do a lot worse than join us in January.

You can find out more about Midnterfest on the website and via the Twitter account: @Midwinterfest

I for one will be making the trip down to Torquay for the very first Midwinterfest. I love the idea of parking up Friday afternoon, and not getting back in my car until Sunday afternoon, having enjoyed a few days of great music and like minded people. See you there!

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

Country 2 Country 2014 Review – Pop Up Stage Acts

Country 2 Country 2014

Last year I went to just the Sunday of Country 2 Country and didn’t realise there would be pop stage acts. This year I went for the whole weekend and scheduled what pop up acts I wanted to see – no seriously, an actual schedule, look! I did keep pretty much to that schedule, with a few exceptions, and even added in a few more performances I hadn’t planned for. On Saturday night I managed a mighty 2.5 hours of sleep, and adrenaline saw me through Sunday, but to say it was one of the greatest weekends of my life would in no way be hyperbole or exaggeration.

If you’ve never been to Country 2 Country, you’ve never seen The O2 transformed into a mini Nashville, with a market area for traders and food stalls, but more importantly 4 pop up stages placed throughout the complex. These stages played host to 28 acts from all over the world and in many respects were the heart of the weekend, providing countless number of highlights.

Striking Matches at Country 2 Country 2014

Striking Matches at Country 2 Country 2014

I have to start with Striking Matches, who are a mesmerising duo of singer songwriters with an almost inhuman level of guitar wizardry. I arrived a bit earlier than expected so was able to see them within moments of entering The O2 on Saturday, and again on Sunday. They weren’t the only act I saw twice as Hannah Jane Lewis’ full band performance on Saturday was so good I had to see her acoustic set the very next day. Both were superb and Hannah seems like someone who was born to sing, and shines in the spotlight. These two acts came together as I chatted to Hannah as we walked over to see Striking Matches on Sunday. Yes, look at me, mingling with the acts 😉

Hannah Jane Lewis at Country 2 Country 2014

Hannah Jane Lewis at Country 2 Country 2014

It was great to see Maria Byrne who I’d been in contact with before the festival, and who brought a change of pace with her folk/country songs and impromptu joke session. I caught Emma Jade mid Sunday afternoon, and though suffering with a sore throat, that didn’t stop her performing songs such as The Dixie Chicks’ Travelling Soldiers that two girls near me had requested numerous times the night before, when the actual Dixie Chicks were playing. With Jill and Kate we got Christmas in March, and I even got my song request played when they sung Skinny Jeans, just for me, as they’d never play one of their most popular songs without me tweeting them, right?

Emma Jade at Country 2 Country 2014

Emma Jade at Country 2 Country 2014

What these pop up stages did showcase is what a hotbed of country music talent there is right here in the UK. As well as those already mentioned I finally got to see Gary Quinn and Raintown, though the latter only for one song as I turned up too late to a massively packed out Brooklyn Bowl Stage. That one song was enough to make me want to see them again, and I caught most of Gary’s set on Sunday, and saw a guy who I immediately wanted to see performing on an outside stage in the sun. Great songs, great voice and entertaining throughout. Then there was Lisa Redford who caught my attention as I was walking past the Armadillo Stage, so much so that I stopped and listened to her silky smooth vocals and forgot about where I had intended to go.

Gary Quinn at Country 2 Country 2014

Gary Quinn at Country 2 Country 2014

All that’s really just the tip of the iceberg of what was going on, but without cloning myself there’s no way I could experience it all. I do have to point out that astonishingly, all these pop stage acts were free to anyone who came to The O2 over the weekend. That’s free as in no charge, as in it cost not one penny to see these incredible singers, songwriters and musicians perform. Just ponder that thought for a few moments. Amazing, right?

I will be doing some individual reviews of some of pop up stage acts I saw, and I have a bucket loads of photos to share and even a few videos too. If ever you want to experience Country 2 Country but for whatever reason can’t get tickets to see the main stage acts, you have to visit The O2 during the afternoon for the pop up stage acts – it’s almost rude not to.

Credit goes to my very good friend Mark for the Striking Matches and Emma Jade photos, and also for keeping up with my crazy schedule where others fell to the wayside.

Categories: Country 2 Country, Gig Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six of the Best Pop Up Artists to Check Out at Country 2 Country 2014

Unless you have been living under a rock you’ll know that Country 2 Country is the big weekend of country music in the UK, held annually at the O2 in London for the second time this coming weekend. But what is a pop up artist? As well as the big 4 acts from America playing in the arena each day, there are what they call pop up stages for smaller, lesser known acts to play on. These 4 stages are named to coincide with what they are near, which makes sense, be daft to name them after something in a completely different area! The fabulous 2Country.net have created these great graphics that show who is playing on each of the stages on both days. Before you look at those, do head over to 2Country.net and check out the amazing selection of country music being played 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Pop Up Artists at Country 2 Country 2014 - Saturday

Pop Up Artists at Country 2 Country 2014 – Saturday

Pop Up Artists at Country 2 Country 2014 - Sunday

Pop Up Artists at Country 2 Country 2014 – Sunday

So, without further a do, here are six of my recommendations of people to check out, and are ones that I’ll certainly be looking out for myself.

Hannah Jane Lewis
If you’ve visited this blog before then this will come as no surprise to you. I was blown away with how great Hannah’s EP sounds and I’ll actually be trying my best to see her twice. She’s with her full band on the Saturday, after which I’ll have to run like Usain Bolt to get to my seat in time for Martina McBride, and then on the Sunday she’s going it alone and performing a acoustic set. In my review of her EP, I said it would be good to hear Hannah play The Worst Way acoustically – consider this my formal request for Sunday.

Gary Quinn
Gary is someone who I have been aware of for a few months due to seeing him mentioned on Twitter but only in the last week or so have I been listening to his album, and actually have a review coming soon, so look out for that. Gary’s music brings a combination of modern and traditional, but most definitely country. You know I bang on about story telling in songs? Gary ticks that box, and is a great weapon to use against anyone who says people from the UK don’t get country music, as I have heard said. I’m particularly hoping to hear I Love To Watch You leave, which shows his cheeky side.

Jill and Kate
It was fellow country music blogger Kasey Stone over at Hitting All the Right Notes who recommended me this duo from Nashville, who actually used to be backing singers for Kelly Clarkson, just a few days ago. When I should have been getting ready for work I instead sat on the sofa listening to their songs on YouTube, as you do. I was struck by how well their voices complimented each other and the variety of songs that show off both their tender and fun spirits. They also get bonus marks for agreeing to sign stuff and I think I have an interview secured for some time in the future.

Raintown
It’s almost criminal that I’ve never listened to any Raintown – they are as synonymous with UK country music as, well, UKCountryMusic.net! Actually, I’m not sure that really works, but what the heck, a plug to a great website is always allowed. Anyway, Raintown are a duo who I have heard mentioned so many times, and even seen active myself on social media, but somehow not yet listened to. Well that’s going to change at Country 2 Country as I’m making sure I watch an act that has been recommended to me quite a few times over the last couple of weeks. So how can I include them if I’ve never heard them? I have a hunch, and I bet after you’ve heard them at the weekend we’ll both agree they deserve their place.

Jessica Clemmons
I’ve been meaning to talk about Jessica for a few weeks now, ever since I got her EP What if, but I wanted to wait until we were closer to Country 2 Country, which we well and truly are now. Jessica has just been over in the UK supporting Boyzone, so is already known by many thousands of fans on these shores. Jessica Clemmons has a voice that makes you sit up and take notice and I’m certain she’s going to wow anyone who goes to see her play. Don’t worry if you can’t get too close, she has power to spare, but not in a shouty way as some singers reply on. Single Tonight is the stand out song on her EP which boasts 5 great songs, and is beautifully presented.

Maria Byrne
I’m not just featuring Maria because she has song that includes the words I’ll be gone 4000 miles and alludes to going to Tennessee, though how incredibly apt is it that I’m talking about her on 4000 Miles to Nashville? Maria’s music is a delicious mix of country and folk, that makes me want to lie down in a field on a sunny evening and hear nothing but her songs. Just listening to songs like Keep On and My Sweet Burden and I feel a sense of calm and contentment. Maria’s music is a mood changer, and in a very positive way.

So that’s my 6, but that leaves 22 acts of the 28 I’ve not talked about. If you have any you want to recommend, or you are one of those artists and think I should come see you play, then please either leave a comment or email me and I’ll do my very best to see as many as humanly possible at the weekend.

Categories: Articles, Country 2 Country | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Country 2 Country 2014: The Highlight of the Year, and it’s Not Just About The Main Acts

Country 2 Country 2014

Last year I attended Country 2 Country just on the Sunday, but this year I am lucky enough to be going on both the Saturday and Sunday. Dixie Chicks on the Saturday, along with Brad Paisley and The Band Perry on the Sunday are what I am most looking forward to, as these are artists I am very familiar with and especially in the case of the Sunday duo, particularly like. Wheelhouse was one of my favourite albums of last year, in fact I ranked it 3rd in my Top 9 Country Music Albums of 2013, and the thought of seeing Brad play songs like Southern Comfort Zone live is pretty damn exciting. Likewise, seeing The Band Perry perform Better Dig Two is one of the things I am most looking forward to. With Natalie Maines there’s always the prospect she might rant about a world leader, with David Cameron being a prime candidate to receive a few home truths!

Of the other main acts, I recently bought the latest albums from Zac Brown Band and Chris Young and like those, more so Zac Brown Band. That being said, I’ll be hoping they don’t play Overnight, a song that seemed ill fitting for the album both in style and content. Rascal Flatts I know from the Cars soundtrack, but little else! I have heard very little from Martina McBride, and have only heard one song from Dierks Bentley. With Dierks I can’t tell you what the song is, but it was played a few times on Chris Country recently and I remember thinking I really liked it. I don’t think I’ll be invited to join the Dierks Bentley street team any time soon, but I still have more than 5 weeks to get my act together!

That’s the 8 main acts, made up of artists I know and love, some I have dabbled in, and a few for which Country 2 Country will be an education. 8 bands in one weekend is a pretty good tally, especially when they are country music acts and this is the UK, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just this morning Country 2 Country announced the 27 acts that will be appearing on the pop up stages across the weekend. That means there will be a massive 35 country music acts performing at one point or another on March 15th and 16th – wow. I don’t know the vast majority of these, but I have heard of a few, and have even chatted to some on Twitter, like Hannah Jane Lewis, Raintown and Jessica Clemmons. In fact I have Jessica’s EP to review, so I’d better get on that!

These pop up stage artists are especially exciting, because for the most part they won’t have big music companies behind them, yet, to promote them and bring them to the consciousness of the average country music fans in the UK. I could, and intend to, come away from Country 2 Country having discovered a whole bunch of great new music that I didn’t even know was out there. It’s win win for both artists and fans. Such is the open nature of these pop up stages that I may also get the opportunity to chat to some of them, which is not something you can easily do in the more formal setting of a standard gig venue.

Add in the country market, which last year had some great food and merchandise stalls, as well as representatives from mighty organisations such as The CMA, and this weekend has the potential to be quite awesome. There’s one other thing though…that’s the country music community, many of whom I have the opportunity to chat to on Twitter, and that could be you, yes you who is reading this right now! I know of quite a few that will be in attendance and will get the chance to meet, chat and have a drink with. As someone who is still in the infancy of their country music journey, it’s these people, you, that have recommended artists and songs, and have been the biggest part of my country music learning curve. It will be great to finally meet and put faces to names, some of whom I’d even consider friends, as much as you can be over Twitter anyway!

The country music community, bar none, has been the most accepting and friendly of any I have encountered, and it’s one of the reasons I have plunged head first into a genre of music that was left undiscovered for so much of my life. I can’t wait to be back in The O2, with link minded fans, to see some of the best music in the world today. Country 2 Country is looking like the highlight of the year, and how lucky am I to even have such an event to attend? There are many people out there in the UK who have passionately followed country music for years, and not had anything like Country 2 Country – thankfully they do now.

See you there – I’ll be the one in the chequered shirt and cowboy boots!

Categories: Articles, Country 2 Country, Live Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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