Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Gig Review - Nashville Meets London 2019

Despite all the temperature problems, heatwaves followed by tropical showers and the disruption caused to public transport Silverball Country grabbed the picnic basket, blanket and their rain coats and headed to Canary Wharf for Nashville Meets London (NML).

Launched in 2016, NML supports the globalization of Americana and Country music.  Forming a part of Canary Wharf’s Arts + Events programme, it is co-produced by Canary Wharf Arts + Events, Peter Conway Management and Nashville-based agency The AristoMedia Group.

The event is hosted by none other than country radio DJ Baylen Leonard, the Tennessee boy who has made London his hometown.

A full afternoon/evening line up meant that there was something for everyone, from the occasional listener to the fanatic that knows every lyric and every dance move too. Bringing together both established and emerging artists from both the UK and the US, this year saw the following take to the stage:
  • Foreign Affairs - British Country Music’s Duo of the Year 2018.
  • Twinnie – Former Hollyoaks actress and West End star turned country star.
  • Robert Vincent – Liverpudlian roots artist who delivered an incredible set, possibly the unexpected highlight of the day
  • Sarah Darling – Although a Nashville resident she is married to a British guy and therefore bridges the gap with the music. She also always brings a sparkle to the stage, check out her outfits.
  • Noah Guthrie – accompanied by his brother on the drums, you could recognise him from America’s Got Talent; last year’s event at Pizza Express or from the TV series Glee.
  • Lauren Alaina – completing her UK tour. She has shot to fame after finishing runner up on the 10th series of American Idol and with her number 1 hit: “Road Less Travelled” and more recently the popular "Ladies in the '90s".

The artists did their best to sing the rain away but undoubtedly the grey skies of London had their say. The organisers know what they are doing; as well as providing a great line-up they haven’t forgotten the location or the wellbeing of their fans, providing plastic ground sheets and rain ponchos to anyone that needed one.

The rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits, still plenty of drinking, singing and dancing. If you were not convinced, then you could take Baylen’s advice - that a shot of tequila will help brighten the day. There are bars on site and both a Waitrose and a Marks & Spencer Simply Food can be found locally.

In between the acts, who each get 30 minutes turnaround time, you can undertake a little bit of celebrity spotting in the crowd, look closely and under the caps and you will find several other UK country artists.  

Silverball Country are supporting Kezia Gill’s mental health campaign, therefore we asked those that we could find to give their support by letting us photograph them with a #imhere patch to help spread the word.

Ok here's the bit you need to know, this is a FREE event, yes you heard correctly, free! Meaning that anyone passing by can stop and catch the action as no ticket is required

So, make a note in your diary and we will see you next year.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Single Review - Your Turn - Jess Thristan

Your Turn is the latest single from Jess Thristan, and the second single release from her inside a month! It is clear that jess is gaining a great deal of support in the UK industry, having been championed by Baylen Leonard on his radio show, and having had the opportunity to write and perform alongside some of the better-known names on the UK country scene.

We reviewed her last single here and noted how the instrumentation was used to underscore the emotion in the song – with this new release the focus is more directed at Jess’ plaintive vocals with the backing this time very light and soaring, quite fitting for what is a more melancholic and plaintive track, utilising pedal steel and a very acoustic feel

With an increasing swing across all genres towards genuine singer songwriters, it certainly seems that Jess has the potential to really make a mark on the UK country scene, and we will look out for her performing live to really be able to appreciate her song writing and performance

The new single from Jess Thristan - Your Turn - is available now.  
Jess can be found on all the usual platforms - Facebook Twitter and Instagram

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Single Review - Don't Let Me Take You Home - Jess and The Bandits

This ballad opens with a gentle 12 second piano solo which is then matched by, and uses, the softness of Jess' voice to set the scene, the all too familiar one where you’re just getting over an ex, getting yourself out there bit by bit - and then run into them. Recovering is a slow process – and that is reflected in the pace of the song’s opening. 

In comes the guitar, building the tension, the pseudo drama of that first meeting…

Jess' voice is most powerful as she sings about needing to be the strong one, and falls as she recognises it isn't her, using the quality of her voice and varying the tempo of the song to take us along on the emotional ride

Don't Let Me Take You Home builds to a powerful, up tempo ending, fully supported by the Bandits, giving that driving instrumentation so key to the emotion.

This song unites country fans - its setting could be anywhere, but it is a take on loss, three chords and the truth that we all love. Jess sings with brutal honesty of wanting to be strong, but knowing that she simply can’t be, and she is imploring her ex to have that strength for them both because she is close to giving in…

Jess says of this song

“This has always been one of my favourite songs I’ve written. It’s been completely finished for quite some time but we’ve never had the opportunity to put it on any of the albums. For me, this song encompasses so much that I love about country music. I’m excited to release ‘Don’t Let Me Take You Home’ as a single so it can have the life it deserves.“

Buy her a drink, but not two. Take just the single home when it drops on July 19th

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Single Review - Play It Loud - Raintown

Raintown are back!  They’ve not had anything out for a while, and their latest song is about – not going out for a while!  Is it Claire having a dig at Paul? Not enough nights out?

Opening with a short guitar riff, a split second of silence – and in comes Claire’s vocal. Pacey, bouncy – listening to the song (produced in Nashville) is very much like being at a Raintown gig – they fill the stage and the venue with their energy.

Although the song is about getting dressed up and going out, it feels like it can equally apply to the other side of the stage – anyone in the entertainment industry knows that feeling when you haven’t gigged for a while and you want to burst out and play to the waiting crowd

Released today, 11 July, this song is perfect for that getting ready/pre drinking stage of a night out, and it’s the one where you will lean over and notch up the volume when it comes on.  That catchy chorus needs to be sung, and sung at the top of your lungs

Co-written with bass player Scott McPherson, Play It Loud is what Raintown are all about – fun, noisy and just so lively! Many songs have a message or a deeper meaning – this one is simple – lets go out and have some fun!  The repeated line "Play that song all night" long sums up the essence of this great new track from a real party band

Play It Loud, the new single from Raintown is available now on all platforms

Find Raintown on Facebookonline and on a rare night out…

Turn it up loud, put on your favourite top and lets hit the town.  Anyone offering to babysit?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Single Review - The Old Me - Jess Thristan

It seems very fitting to have been sent the new song from Jess Thristan this week, just as UK Country starts to embrace the #ImHere campaign.  

The Old Me is a reflective song dealing with quite a difficult topic – how I used to be, how I am now and how I want to be.  The song opens with almost a heartbeat of drums and cleverly uses a blend of melancholic guitar, piano and steel to underscore the emotion, but builds the instrumentation to emphasise the positivity – and while the song is not quite uplifting pop country, it does have a positive undertone!

In her own words

“The Old Me highlights a time where I was a bit lost on my own journey and I was comparing myself to older versions of myself instead of moving forward and evolving, and that’s the story I wanted to tell with the lyrics of this song. I got the chance to work with some incredible musicians on this track which we recorded in the amazing Rocket Studios.”

Jess herself seems to fit into the new school of female country singers – think Maren, think Cam in terms of vocal performance.  As well as other live dates, Jess appeared at Buckle and Boots this year and had the onerous task of following one of the biggest Songwriter’s rounds - and she easily stepped up to the challenge!

The Old Me – the new single from Jess Thristan is released on 5 July

You can find Jess on Facebook on Instagram 
and reflecting on what is, what was and what will be….

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Gig Review - Album Launch - Simon James

We listened to, and reviewed, Simon James’ new album ahead of release, so of course we had to be at the official launch to hear the new music played live.  Rik made the trip to Manchester’s Night People armed with Simon’s favourite sweets – Orange Smarties.

The venue itself was dark, moody and felt like a proper underground music venue – perfect then to showcase Simon and his new album.
Simon was supported – as ever – by close friend and label mate Sam Coe who opened with a sort of solo set – Sam without her Long Shadows, but accompanied by label boss Kevin on guitar. Sam played keys, Sam sung her new solo material and Sam was fantastic!

While I sat with Sam for a chat, Jamie Freeman took to the stage, and even in the green room we could hear how much the assembled crowd were enjoying his set

And then it was 9pm, and Simon James and the Deep River Pilots took to the stage.  It was a small stage in a small venue, but Simon and the boys absolutely filled it with a powerful performance.  Simon’s music is gritty, its gruff and it is mature – as one audience member commented to me, he couldn’t do this if he was 25.  There was a rowdy edge to the night, with – it seemed – half of Simon’s village along to support him this was never going to be a genteel listening party, but that wouldn’t be Simon’s style!  With his family in the room and Sam Coe on backing vocals Simon gave a great performance – his voice, the music, the band all coming together to create a fabulous sound. Stand out track Oh Honey just seemed so effortless as it flowed from the stage, Something Worth Fighting For was sung with real emotion – and Simon declared it to be his own favourite track from the album

The album is great, the live performance of it really did the writing justice – you feel the power, feel the realism.

The evening ended on Ready To Fly which seemed so apt, especially as the album charted at number 4 on the iTunes chart that very day.  When Sam Coe called Simon’s Name after the final band roll call he gave the crowd a very happy, cheeky grin.

I took a rather sweaty Simon outside for a breath of fresh air and a chat after the show and asked him how it felt after launching his new album on the new label.  His reply
 “exhausted and elated. It was a great gig, a really really amazing gig”
Simon writes from experience, as he says 
“You can’t just write a song by picking out happy lyrics from someone else, and you can’t just write bullshit…I’m not very good at writing happy songs”
Simon writes alone, but bounces off Sam, but in essence he writes for himself, and even if someone else doesn’t like it, he’s still going to write it.
Everything about Simon is authentic, influenced by what he sees, his time of life and by the music he grew up with – it is all very much real life.  Is start in music was at age 6 when his father was given a guitar as part payment for a bill. His sound is a mix of Folk, Country and Blues – all the bands and styles that have had an impact on him over the years.

On UK Country and song writing
 “Its about writing songs that tell the truth, as long as people are out there singing and playing songs that tell the truth, that’s ok with me”
The album is undeniable gritty, but the performance was “Happy in a Simon James way” – and Simon explained this very simply 
“Its happy because I enjoy playing on stage”
Simon James has gone from An Ordinary Man, to Happy Ever After, and with this new album and his love of being on stage he is undeniably Ready To Fly

Simon James’ new album Happy Ever After on Ginger Dog Records is available now to download, to stream or to buy as a physical copy

If you are planning to catch Simon at Millport Festival, bring him Orange Smarties and a nip of Crème De Menthe