What brought along the current country revival? Mr. Mumford gifting his son a banjo? Ms. Parton’s triumphant Sunday slot at Glastonbury? TV series Nashville (telling the story of fading and rising country stars in the genre’s home)? Either way, Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire duo The Shires are going with it. After becoming the first ever English act to be signed to a major Nashville label (Universal), Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have seen their debut album, Brave, topping the UK Country charts, and entering the Official Album chat at #10.
Tonight, to a sold out Shepherd’s Bush crowd, they deliver tracks from the album, as well as a couple of covers and plenty of tales between about, well, Country music and Nashville. The place, not the TV series.
‘Tonight’ and ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ open the set in their trademark style; authentically replicating the acts that have inspired them. The album’s title track (and, arguably, highlight) appears early in the show, turning what can often be a raucous venue into silence, the standing crowd stood-still, mesmerised by the blend of Earle’s relaxed tones with Rhodes’ vocal, switching from naive cowgirl to confident powerhouse. ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ (a popular first dance choice, from all accounts) continues in similar style, sounding not unlike contemporaries Lady Antebellum.
Although confident throughout, the duo claim to be nervous during a “writer’s round” section, recreating the sessions that took place with other bands in, you guessed it, Nashville, after new material had been written. Sliding steel guitar carries ‘Other People’s Things’, already sounding like a highlight from their next release.
‘Jeckyl And Hyde’ allows their backing band to rock, before ‘Made In England’ brings them back home, with lyrics of rain and fish & chips (which gets a little laugh from the crowd). A cover of Dolly & Kenny’s ‘Islands In The Stream’ closes the show, blending perfectly with their own numbers, if anything sounding more cliché than The Shires’ tracks inspired by it. It’s a Great British take on Nashville, Tennessee, and surprisingly, it works well.