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I’m so out-of-date that when I recently heard a reference to the UK charts coming out on a Friday I was mildly surprised.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.

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.