Posts Tagged With: The Shires

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

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: | 2 Comments

Review: Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires & Cassadee Pope

Review: Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires & Cassadee Pope

A couple of weeks ago Sounds like Nashville announced a special showcase gig for rising UK duo The Shires on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you hadn’t already guessed, Sounds Like Nashville is part of Universal Music and covers their country music acts in the UK. Lots of people signed up to attend the showcase, to be held at the Gibson Guitar Studio in London, and then a whole lot more did the same when the special guest who would also be playing was announced as Cassadee Pope. Cassadee won the 2012 version of The Voice over in America, and after pop punk beginnings has forged a career in country music over the last 18 months.

I arrived at about 6.30pm for a 7pm start and there was already a modest queue of about 20-25 people, some of whom I overheard saying they had been there since 11am for the meet and greet with Cassadee. Being typically British we all played on our mobile phones rather than striking up conversation with strangers – not the done thing here is it? I have to admit I did feel ever so slightly pretentious when I got to the girl with the list and she looked for my name, because at that point I had to inform her I was actually on the press/media list. From jobs and other hobbies I’ve had many freebies and opportunities over the years, but I still feel honoured and privileged when they are thrown my way. Put your hankies away – emotional part over! Once inside I grabbed a beer with Chris Country as mini hot dogs and hamburgers did the rounds while we waited.

The Shires

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes are a country music duo who have shot to relative fame in the past few months after the release of their debut single Nashville Grey Skies, which a few weeks ago made it to the A list on the BBC Radio 2 playlist. As my station of choice this means I regularly get to hear a cracking song from a UK country music act. That’s a pretty big deal, and I felt especially proud when Chris Evans not only played it last Friday, but discussed it with his team on air too. It got a thumbs up from everyone in case you were wondering. Having just returned from recording their album in both Nashville and then Sweden, The Shires came on stage first, and boy did they look happy to be there.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

Quite a few times we’ve seen television shows prove that anyone can be made to sound good with the right equipment and producer, so it’s always great to see an act who can sing live every bit as well as their records would have you believe. I never had any doubt with The Shires, especially after hearing them play a session for Bob Harris, but they exceeded my expectations last night, and then some. Crissie’s voice is a thing of divine beauty and it seems utterly effortless for her to switch between magnificently controlled power and gorgeous subtle tones, depending on what the song calls for. Ben is multi instrumentalist who not only plays guitar, and last night piano for one song too, but excels in his own solo vocal spots while adding perfect harmonies throughout.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

When they played Nashville Grey Skies I surprised myself with how well I knew it, and found myself singing along. This is something they commented on – not just to me, the whole crowd – how amazed they are that people know the words to their songs. When Ben and Crissie did talk between songs, they came across really well and endeared themselves to the audience with their passion and down to earth personalties. The Shires are a duo who you know will do well because of how fantastic they sound, but you also want to do well because of nice they are. That’s a powerful combination right there.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring The Shires

One of the highlights for me was the chemistry that they have when they are performing. When Crissie is hitting long high notes that are blowing the audience away, Ben is looking on with knowing pride. Then when Ben was singing at the piano Crissie was reciprocating that pride. Watching The Shires play live is an absolute pleasure and I found myself getting lost in the music, in between taking photos of course. They even split the room in two and had us singing different parts of the last song – emotion, connection and participation – good job guys. With just four songs it was enough to give us a taste of what they can do, but not too much that I didn’t come away with an almost rabid anticipation for their album coming out later this year.

Cassadee Pope

I’ll admit that coming into this showcase I didn’t know a great deal about Cassadee Pope, other than The Voice connection, which she’ll probably be asked about for a good few years yet. If I’m honest I was expecting a pop singer with a hint of country, aimed more at the teen audiences than myself. I was wrong – from the moment she came on stage it was obvious she was just as thrilled to be on stage as The Shires, and every bit as humble too. Coming from The Voice probably makes her try even harder to shut up critics who will label her as a reality show contestant without even seeing what she has to offer.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring Cassadee Pope

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring Cassadee Pope

Cassadee’s debut album, Frame By Frame, comes out Monday in the UK, and she opened her set with Champagne, which is actually one of the few songs on her album she didn’t have a hand in writing. Oh you didn’t know? Yes, as well as playing guitar she writes a lot of her material too, which like her song 11, means their is a deep personal, connection to what she is singing.

Now let’s talk about that singing, and I can see from last night why she won a contest titled The Voice. There were moments in her 4 song set where she held high notes so long and with such control that it hardly seemed possible. Cassadee puts everything into vocal performance, and a little bit more for good measure. It’s never too much though, and it never sounds shouty like too many singers end up doing. She sings with so much raw emotion and you can see while she’s doing it that she really believes in what she’s singing and it’s coming straight from the heart.

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring Cassadee Pope

Sounds Like Nashville Showcase Featuring Cassadee Pope

Was it country though? Now admittedly it always sounded more country when you have a stripped down live performance, but the words the music and the message, yes, Cassadee Pope is definitely country music. There’s no arguing that she’s swinging towards the pop side of country, but if Taylor Swift is still being nominated for country music awards then Cassadee Pope is deserving of her two CMT Music Awards nominations and place in country music. She’s a very charming and talented singer, who in spite of the lofty status her Stateside success has given her, seems very grounded and loving what she’s doing and where she’s at right now. I went in slightly sceptical, but I came out with every intention of buying her album when it’s released, and looking out for her to come back and put on some more shows here.

Sounds Like Nashville

The evening was introduced as the first of such events, and I’m hoping it’s not too long until we get the next. The whole showcase was very well organised and the Gibson Guitar Studio was the perfect setting, with fantastic acoustics. More than anything it’s made me very excited about both The Shires and Cassadee Pope, and what the future holds for them.

Buy Nashville Grey Skies by The Shires: Amazon | iTunes
Buy Frame by Frame by Cassadee Pope: Amazon | iTunes

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