The heat is on!

Boy CMAFest is hot! And I don’t just mean the weather, though it is well into the 90s in Nashville.

last night the first of four evening concerts At the Nissan stadium, home of Tennessee Titans football team, was opened by country music veterans the Charlie Daniels Band. Kelsea Ballerini rocked a multi-coloured jump suit and the crowd, Dierks Bentley Got Drnk on a Plane and Simewhere on a Beach. He also introduced his new “friend” Elle King, who joined him on Different for Girls.

In fact surprise appearance was the order of the night. Charlie Daniels brought Randy Travis on stage. His appearance drew warm applause though Travis is still clearly a shadow of his former self.

Lady Antebellum made an unscheduled appearance with pop songstress Cam. They initially did two songs, there then seemed some confusion as the fans waited for headliner Jason Aldean, Lady A and Cam repeated the first song.

A bit late Aldean hit the stage and   delivered his usual barnstorming rock performance.

it may just have been the time, it was after 11.30pm when Aldean started but it was notable that the crowd thinned out. A couple of rows around us on the floor of the venue were virtually empty.

So do some people buy tickets to just see favoured acts and either spend the time when other acts are on stage in the bars or simply head home once there faces have been on stage?

Having come from the UK and waited a year for this we plan to get value for money and see everyone who hits the stage.




Things actually are what they used to be

I recently commented on a post on a Facebook group for country music fans from someone saying “country music isn’t what it used to be.”

so it was good to see how this genre has changed and adapted over the decades when we visited the country music museum and hall of fame in Nashville.

From its roots in people playing basic instruments, sometimes home made, through the influence of cowboy tunes, Western swing and the impact of mass media. Through its history country has regularly found a new voice without losing sight of the debt it owes to previous generations.

And last night at the Grand Ole Oprey we saw a live example of how acts from other genres work with country acts when Little Big Town introduced Pharrell Williams as there surprise guest. Williams joined LBT to perform their new single, which he has co-written. You can view the action here.

I know we are just two days in to the trip but the visit to the GOO is a highlight. For a country fan in the UK the GOO is one of those legendary venues and it didn’t disappoint.

Larger than I thought, the concert is a radio broadcast, so it keeps moving along, with acts performing four songs each, interspersed with promos read out by the on stage announcer.

The line we saw included Darius Rucker, LBT and Miranda Lambert.

A great night out and a great experience.

Nashville – day one

In LA everyone is an actor, a writer, a producer, a director (or at least a would-be one) while they wait tables or serve beers. In Nashville it appears everyone is a singer and/or songwriter. The difference here is that these folk are actually out-and-about playing bars and other venues as well as working a “normal job”

The lady who sold my wife dome boots was busking with her husband, who worked in the same shop.

Meanwhile performers who are at the start of the greasy poll to fame kicked off the CMAFest on their international stage.

Among the acts were Frankie Davies and the Pauper Kings from the UK, both of whom played great sets, both of whom are recording new albums in Nashville.

The line-up of acts was drawn from rising country stars from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It’s a great idea and by doing it on the Monday it doesn’t clash with other CMA events.

The stage was set up in the car park area of the Hard Rock Cafe and it attracted a decent crowd.

Well worth checking out the performers and looking out for there recordings.

Off to Nashville, as Nashville comes over here

After a year of waiting we are off to Nashville this weekend, so we have time to ‘warm-up’ ahead of the CMAFest 2016. But just as we are digging out the passports Nashville announces that it’s coming over here in August.

On Saturday August 13 and Sunday 14 Canary Wharf is hosting an outdoors country concert, at Canada Sq Park.

The line up includes Ty Herndon, Logan Brill and American Young from the USA and Hannah Rose Platt, William The Conqueror and Pauper Kings, who are playing CMAFest.

The event is co-produced by Canary Wharf Arts +and Events, Peter Conway Management, and Nashville-based agency The AristoMedia Group. Baylen Leonard, BBC Radio 2 Country DJ, is the artistic program consultant.

The full line up will be confirmed over the next few weeks. To keep up to date you can follow the Twitter feed @yourcanarywharf

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.


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

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.

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.