One year ago today….

A note came up on Facebook today reminding me that it was one year ago today when we purchased out tickets for CMA Fest 2016. And now it’s nearly here. Just 10 days to go to the start of the festival action on the main stage.

Of course there’s action before than. On the Monday CMA World Global gives the Festival a truly international feel, with acts from around the world playing. -Logo-Badge-4C

To help fans plan how they will navigate the whole event, with all the acts and stages CMA created an app which is really well designed. They have avoided overloading it with to much material and stuck to the info fans really want. This include a ‘my schedule’ which helps you pick out the acts you want to see, what time they are appearing and which stage they are on.

So who is on my list? Well, we will in the stadium for the ‘main event’ but alongside of that I have Jersey songstress Frankie Davies pencilled in for Monday evening; Jake Owen starts our four day festival viewing at 10am (I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert at 10am!) at the Chevrolet Riverfront stage. I’ve also got Kristian Bush, Maddie & Tae and Margo Price on the schedule.

Any suggestions of other acts who are ‘must sees’ gratefully received.

 

Young set to kick-off CMA Festival

Another announcement about CMA Fest as the event gets closer with the announcement that Chris Young will kick-off this year’s festival at the event’s official opening ceremony at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater on June 8 at 11am.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry will also be taking part in the open event, alongside the Fisk Jubilee Singers and students from local schools,Young, who is also a member of the CMA Board of Directors said: “As a Middle Tennessee native and someone who grew up going to Fan Fair, it’s pretty cool to get to kick off CMA Music Festival and shine a spotlight on the CMA Foundation and the music education students the festival benefits.”

The opening ceremonies are free and open to the public. The stage is located at the foot of Korean Veterans Boulevard and First Avenue (south of Riverfront Park), and gates will open at 10AM for the event.

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Ups and downs in UK country chart

Two new entries in this week’s UK country chart. Major US star Blake Shelton’s new album If i’m Honest, debuts at number 2, while Irish country singer Mary Duff’s latest offering, Changing Lanes appears at number 10. Moving to the top of the chart is another debut album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter by Margo Price. The album has received rave reviews and Price has recently been playing a number of gigs in the UK and appeared on BBC2’s Later with Jools Holland. Next month she is back in the US and will be playing a number of dates during CMAFest2016 including the Park Stage on June 12 and two dates at 3rd & Lindsley on the 14 and 15. So hopefully I will manage to see her then.

Debut album hits number one in UK charts
Debut album hits number one in UK chart

1 Midwest farmer’s daughter – Margo Price (3)

2. If i’m honest – Blake Shelton (new)

3. Detour – Cyndi Lauper (5)

4. The things that we are made of – Mary Chapin Carpenter (1)

5. Ripcord – Keith Urban (2)

6. A sailor’s guide to earth – Sturgill Simpson (8)

7. Traveller – Chris Stapleton (6)

8. Stayin up all night – Nathan Carter (9)

9. Playing with fire – Jennifer Nettles (4)

10. Changing Lanes – Mary Duff (new)

Courtesy of the Official Charts Company

UK artists head for CMA Fest

Just 16 days to go to the kick-off of CMA Fest 2016 and the line-up of artists on the main stage and the various others around the festival have been announced (Unless the organisers have some last minute surprises up the sleeve of their rhinestone shirt?).

Of course the focus will be on the big name acts but I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the performers at the other venues, particularly those I haven’t come across before?

Among those I’ve spotted on the list are two UK acts, though there may be more.

Singer songwriter Frankie Davies is from Jersey and played C2C this year. At CMA Fest she will be part of CMA World Global Live. Also playing the Global Live session are York’s Pauper Kings, a country rock band.

Hope to catch both acts and if anyone knows of other UK artists playing let me know.

 

Country charts here and there

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s latest offering is the UK’s best selling country album this week after just two weeks on the chart. Last week’s number one, Cyndi Lauper’s Detour meanwhile has slipped to five while Jennifer Nettles new offering, Playing with fire debuts at number four.

In the Billboard chart in the US the number one is Ripcord, by Keith Urban, number two here, while Mary Chapin Carpenter debuts at number eight.

This week's No1 UK country album
This week’s No1 UK country album
  1. The things that we are made of – Mary Chapin Carpenter (2)
  2. Ripcord – Keith Urban (4)
  3. Midwest farmers daughter – Margo Price (8)
  4. Playing with fire – Jennifer Nettles (New)
  5. Detour – Cyndi Lauper (1)
  6. Traveller – Chris Stapelton (5)
  7. Little windows – Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones (11)
  8. A sailor’s guide to earth – Sturgill Simpson (6)
  9. Stayin’ up all night – Nathan Carter (3)
  10. Tangled up – Thomas Rhett (9)

Courtesy of the Official Charts Company

Country charts

I’m so out-of-date that when I recently heard a reference to the UK charts coming out on a Friday I was mildly surprised. I still imagine that charts come out on a Tuesday lunchtime on Radio 1.

Now of course the BBC pop charts are not the only ones. Like the US we now have a number of charts for different genres and niche markets, including country.

It’s interesting to note the difference between two charts. The Official Country chart which is album based currently shows Detour by Cyndi Lauper at number 1; The things that we are made of, Mary Chapin Carpenter at 2 and Stayin’ up all night by Nathan Carter at 3. The album which has been on the charts for the longest time is the Shires debut with 52 weeks.

Over at iTunes UK country chart, which is single track downloads, the  picture is different number 1 is Keith Urban’s The fighter, number 2 Brad Paisley, without a fight and at 3 Thomas Rhett, die a happy man. But it’s when you look at paces 4,6 and 8  that you notice the difference. All three slots are held by Dolly Parton, Jolene, islands in the stream and 9 to 5.

I’m not sure how many downloads it takes to chart but clearly the idea that the internet creates a long-tail of products is quite right.

It will be interesting to see how long Dolly stays on the iTune list and if other older tracks make an appearance.

Axe falls on Nashville

American TV networks can be brutal. Programmes which seem to be popular or growing in popularity suddenly disappear, sometimes in mid-season. Now the same fate has befallen Nashville, the country music TV drama.

Nashville is about to be switched off
Nashville is about to be switched off

The programme was well received in the US when it first aired and I think one of it’s great strengths was that the cast included real musicians and the songs where written by real songwriters. The fact that T Bone Burnett, artist, songwriter, producer, oversaw the music in the first series set the tone (though he later left the show).

The programme resulted in a number of albums and it has to be said that these would stand on their own quality, and not just because they came out of a hit TV programme.

So why has the programme been axed?

Produced in the US by ABC in the UK it aired on More4. The debut episode attracted around 0.8m, by the season end this had dropped to about 0.6m and the second series opener attracted 0.5m. So not a huge ratings winner when compared to dramas on the mainstream channels this is quite low, but for a channel like More4 it was a decent performance. The show had also suffered a slide in viewing figures in the US, particularly among the key 18-49 demographic; this is the audience which networks believe they need to attract to win the big advertisers.

I think Nashville has been the best programme based on the music industry, certainly better than Vinyl, though there hasn’t been that much competition.

So the guitars are being packed away and the amps switched off for the last time, just as some of the cast are set to tour the UK. I suspect the main spin off from this show may be a genuine music career for some of the performers.

Jess & the Bandits, a band who can steal your heart

Before we get the music a quick review of the venue. Bush Hall is in Shepherds Bush area of London and a great place to see bands. It’s a small, intimate if you are doing PR for the place, venue. A bit like watching a band in your front room, providing your front room has a small stage at the front and chandeliers. If it does you probably live in Downton Abbey or just down the road from Bush Hall in Buck Palace. Concerts are always good value.

IMG_0181
Jess and the Bandits

And so the gig. Jess, of Jess & the Bandits, is from Texas but her bandits are all from the UK. which perhaps reflects the growing interest in country music in the UK, influenced by a new wave of US artists.

I first came across J&tB when they played on the late Sir Terry Wogan’s Sunday morning show, a performance she mentioned at the concert before playing their excellent cover version of the Jimmy Webb classic Wichita Lineman.

Although the band has only one album behind, Here we go Again, them the mix of songs means that they can up the tempo and slow it down without losing the audience because of the quality of the material. Ready Set is a great romp of a track and Nitty Gritty deserves to be an anthem for equality. As well as the cover of Wichita Lineman the band also do a neat cover of Mamma Told me not to Come and you felt that you were with them at the slightly dodgy party described in the song.

Because Bush Hall is so small it could be difficult to get the sound mix right for a five piece band but they do a good job and you get the feeling that these guys could make you feel up-close and personal in even the biggest venue. I did feel sorry for the drummer, who didn’t have a full set of drums but sat on and played what appeared to be a tea-chest, but was, I guess, a bit more hi-tech.

Luke and Mel
Luke and Mel

Before we close, a quick mention for Luke and Mel who supported J&tB. Like the headliners they have played Country 2 Country and have a number of British Country Music Awards to their name. Good performers, good songwriters and well worth checking out.

 

CMA Fest – the countdown begins

So the starting point for this blog was our trip to Nashville for CMA Fest and we are now just 36 days to the first act hitting the stage. That act will be Jake Owen on Thursday, June 9 on the River Front stage at 10am! Yes, 10am. Now that sounds like an early start for fans, but boy, it sounds a really early start for the performers. But that really sets the tone for the whole event. There are four stages which are back-to-back with acts and the challenge looks like trying to get to see all of the acts you want to catch. Even on the first day we’ve got Kristian Bush overlapping by five minutes with Maddie and Tae on different stages (First world problems, I know!) I’ve been a big fan of Kristian since I saw him at the first C2C festival in London. A great song writer and performer.

I guess more seasoned CMA Fest goers will have their game plan sorted but we are need to do our research, how far apart are the stages and can we dash between them?

 

 

So why country music UK?

Love country music
Love country music

Well, I’m in the UK and this is going to be about country music!

The main prompt however is that in June I’m off to Nashville for CMA Fest. In the meantime I thought I would blog about all things country, or at least all things country that I’m interested in, sound interesting, or simply come my way.

So do why do a qualify as someone who can write about country music? Well, I didn’t know you had to have a qualification. But as you’ve asked, the very first, yes, very first concert I ever saw was Johnny Cash and that was in the early 1970s in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, hardly a hot-bed of country music.

Since then the popularity of country music in the UK has waxed and waned. I have to admit the Dolly Parton, line dancing, pretending you live next door to the Dukes of Hazard when in fact you live in Dagenham (or anywhere else beginning with D) has never been my flavour of country. But there has always been great singer songwriters and great performers (of which more later)

More recently country has developed a whole new generation of acts (of which more later). Plus, things like C2C, Maverick magazine, and Internet radio enabling stations such as Chris Country to take to the air, are all giving country music in the UK a big push.

So this may be nothing more than a vanity project or it may turn out to be deeply insightful, either way welcome to the page and if you have thoughts on country music or particularly good acts you want to share let me know.

So here we go. Country Music UK