Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at The Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables – Milton Keynes – 10th November 2018

Read a few of my previous reviews of Danni Nicholls, by clicking this convenient link, and you’ll see just how much I love her music. Thanks to being in France in June, train problems in the summer and other issues the weekend of The Long Road, I would have seen Danni live six times in 2018 before last Saturday’s gig in Milton Keynes. As it was, this was my 4th Danni Nicholls gig of the year, which isn’t so bad really. I went with my gigging buddy Johnny who had started listening to Danni after seeing and hearing me talk about her music, a lot. So after a cheeky Nando’s (is there any other kind?), it was off to at The Stables, and my first visit to a venue that lay at the end of a windy country road.

I’ve seen Danni at The Borderline in London, in a record club in Bedford, at a festival in Bedford and a cocktail bar in Bedford, but this was the first time I was going to see Danni Nicholls play with a band. Previously it had just been Danni and her guitar, which let me tell you, is more than sufficient for a top class night of music. There were a lot of instruments and mic stands on the stage, so I could see we were in for something special.

The band came out and started playing, and then 30 seconds later Danni walked out on stage, presented as the star attraction she is. She kicked off with back to back songs from her upcoming album The Melted Morning, which would be a theme for the evening. As much as I love Danni’s back catalogue, hearing her new music is always a treat, and I got to hear even more of the new songs than I had at previous gigs. The full band sound was fantastic, and the new songs are really quite wonderful. Both on stage, and in the writing of her new music, I witnessed a very comfortable Danni Nicholls, and the next step in the evolution of her songwriting. This new album is going to be absolutely brilliant, with that trademark combination of vocal range, inspiring lyrics and smouldering soul that only Danni Nicholls can offer.

As much as I was excited to hear the new material, it was equally great to hear songs I thought I knew very well, presented in this full band format. The musicians and backing singers (one of whom was support act Hannah Rose Platt, who’d done a great job opening the evening) added a lot of depth and layers to favourites such as A Little Redemption and Beautifully Broken, the latter being my favourite Danni Nicholls song and always a delight to hear. It was quite surreal seeing someone else play the signature riffs that I’m so used to seeing Danni play on guitar herself, but the band and backing singers were all top notch and complimented Danni superbly. Danni looked to be having the time of her life, and didn’t for one second look out of place on a stage she’d grown up wanting to play on. As a huge fan of Danni, there was no doubt I was always going to enjoy this gig, but I’ve rarely seen a whole crowd of people react in the way they did. People were dancing, whooping, singing and showing huge amounts of respect and appreciation with their rapturous applause and standing ovations.

Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at The Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables – Milton Keynes, 10th November 2018

I’m a person who is very aware of time, and I can hand on heart say that this is the first gig I can remember where I didn’t look at my watch once. Well, that is until Danni and band bowed to a huge reaction and it looked like we were done for the night. It was just a few minutes before the slated end time, so I thought that there was a chance we wouldn’t get an encore. Well, I was wrong, thankfully, and out they came again for not one but two more songs. The last was a song that we were due to hear at the Bears & Tales gig, but ran out of time, so I was thrilled to finally hear Goodnight Moon live. The final song on her debut album A Little Redemption album and the perfect bookend to a spectacular evening of music. The gig actually finished this time and everyone was on their feet. The reaction was incredible, and so well deserved. Wow, that was something else. It was the kind of gig that only comes around every now and then, and fills your heart with joy and had me smiling from the very first second to the last, and for a long time afterwards. It was a career-defining gig for Danni Nicholls and a life-defining one for me as a fan.

Back in the bar and foyer area a lot of people waited to meet Danni and get things signed, and when she walked out everyone cheered and clapped, again. I’ve not seen such a warm and honest reaction from fans of an artist anywhere else, and it was evident that as both a musician and a person, Danni has touched a lot of people. It was great to be able to let Danni know much I’d enjoyed her performance, and thank her for putting on such a great show. I still have to pinch myself that someone whose music I admire so much and means so much to me, is so accessible and welcomes me like a friend every time I see her. I know being a good person isn’t a prerequisite of being a great musician, but it’s heartwarming when they are.

I’d commented to Danni a few days before that she needed some new merchandise as I had everything already. She replied that she had some especially for that night, and she certainly came up trumps. I bought a mini guitar, poster for that night’s gig (which looks amazing and will be framed and hung on the lounge wall) and a bracelet for my wife Denise made from one of Danni’s old guitar strings and which had beads recycled from family items. The first two she kindly signed and even asked who she should make the poster signing out to, knowing the whole family are big fans. My buddy Johnny had a great time too and certainly came away an even bigger fan of Danni Nicholls, as did I.

Meeting Danni Nicholls at The Stables, Milton Keynes - November 10th 2018

Signed Danni Nicholls Mini Guitar

Signed Danni Nicholls Poster - The Stables, Milton Keynes - November 10th 2018

What an amazing night it was – a musical performance of the absolute highest quality, in a superb venue, and surrounded by a whole bunch of great people. Speaking of which, a big thank you to Danni’s manager Graham and to her family members who I met and were a delight. I’d been thinking about my favourite gigs of the year recently, and already had one from Danni Nicholls in my top 10. Well, this one is going straight into that list, and I’ll tell you right now that it’s fighting for the top spot. You’ll have to come back and read that list later in the year to see for yourself where it places, and the other 9 too. I’ll finish by saying that not only did Danni Nicholls live up to her own high standard, but she raised the bar even higher. Anyone out there who doesn’t have the music of Danni Nicholls in their life is missing out big time, take it from me.

Top 10 Country to Country 2018

1. Margo Price

Country to Country 2018 Review Day 3 - Margo Price

2. Kacey Musgraves
3. Ashley Campbell
4. Ward Thomas
5. Lukas Nelson
6. Ashley McBryde
7. The Grahams
8. Old Dominion
9. Luke Combs
10. Ryan Hurd

4 main stage performances
3 satellite stage performances
3 pop up stage performances

Full reviews and thoughts can be found here: Day 1 ¦ Day 2 ¦ Day 3

A Week Without Social Media – How I Coped After Deleting Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram Off My Phone

One week and roughly 7 hours ago I deleted all the social media apps on my phone – that means Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram. So why did I do this? We went away on holiday last Sunday, to stay with family in Poole, and I decided I wanted to be completely off the grid, at least from a social media standpoint anyway. So why couldn’t I just not check them whilst I was away, that would be less drastic, wouldn’t it? In an ideal world yes, but I’m somewhat addicted to the aforementioned social media accounts, and if they are on my phone I’d be checking them. Addiction is a serious word, and I don’t use it lightly, but I do believe it’s the right one, or at least I did when I deleted them.

So how did it go? Actually, a damn sight easier than I thought it would be. I’m not sure if it was because in holiday mode, and spent much of the day on the beach, and evenings at restaurants with family, or whether the perceived addiction was just an indication that I need to be more productive with my spare time. On a couple of occasions I did think “ooh, that would make a good tweet, or that should be something I could take a photo of and put on Instagram”, but they were very fleeting thoughts and not something that I was disappointed not to be able to do. I didn’t actually take my phone to the beach, so was without it from mid-morning until mid to late afternoon, so maybe that was cheating a bit. However, when I did have it in the evenings I didn’t have the urge to check for updates on social media. In fact, I didn’t delete the apps from my iPad which I also took with me, but not once was I tempted to open them.

I could very well have missed out on something very important, but would that really be the case? I kept abreast of the news, a bit, and all my family members have my phone number, so they could have called and texted me, as some did. Importance is relative and any happenings on social media don’t really impact the world in any productive way, not in the circles I exist anyway. One interesting observation is just how much people rely on social media to communicate with one another, as it was my birthday the day after I deleted all the apps, and only one friend texted to wish me happy birthday, and she knew I had deleted the apps. To be fair, when I log back on to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, there could well be a bunch of birthday messages there.

I do rely on Twitter and Facebook, in particular, to keep up with the activities of singers and bands I like, but that’s not something I need to check every day, or every hour if I’m being completely honest. What I don’t miss is that constant need to see if anyone has reacted to what I’ve posted. That’s a flaw in the way I think and one that needs addressing, so social media is probably not a healthy environment for me to be around in the first place.

Will I go back to them? I kind of need to as I use them to spread the word about the activities of Dedicated to DLP, and do still want gig updates for the aforementioned musicians. Can I decrease my time using them, and dependence on interactions? Time will tell, but this week of cold turkey did categorically prove that without them I didn’t suffer at all. In fact my son will tell you it was a very positive experience, as I spent more time playing with him and less time checking my phone.

At the time of publishing this article, I have not yet installed any of the social media accounts back into my phone, and I’m quite anxious about doing so. The irony is that you’ll most probably only be reading this now if I have logged back in and shared this article on them. (EDIT: 3 hours later… or I still haven’t added the apps back to my phone and share this on Facebook and Twitter using my laptop)

Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales: Unplugged – Bedford, 26th July 2018

This isn’t going to be a huge review as it’s far too hot to be sat at my laptop after a day at work, but I couldn’t let last night go without saying a few words. Those who know me will be by now get that I’m a huge Danni Nicholls fan, and ever since discovering her supporting Angaleena Presley just over a year ago in London, her music has infiltrated my playlist more than any other artist in that time. It’s not just me though, my wife Denise is a big fan and even Lucas chose her music over The Beano at her Record Store Day performance earlier this year, and that’s a pretty big endorsement right there. Last night Danni appeared at Bears and Tales, an intriguingly names cocktail bar in Bedford, and an equally intriguing venue for a gig.

The format of the evening was drink, music (no drinks being served), drink, music (no drinks being served), and so on. The idea being that you get your drink in between music sets and then drink it whilst listening to the music, so as not to have drink service noises during said music. The support slot was taken by friend of the bar Johnny Mudd, who gave us a set very much in the modern singer-songwriter mould that has been popularised by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, George Ezra and the like. This is absolutely nothing against Johnny, who has a great voice, plays the guitar well and has that self-depreciating British persona down to a tee, but this style of music is not really to my taste. He’s also lovely guy, but I have to be honest, or there really is no point writing anything at all. The internet is awash with vomit-inducing sycophancy, you don’t need me adding to it. Johnny Mudd – great at what he does, just not for me.

So after ordering our second drink, which in my case was an absolutely delicious gin-based cocktail going by the name of Ford’s Flower, it was time for Danni Nicholls, and the reason we were there. It will come as a surprise to no one that Danni sounded great, and that’s such an all-encompassing and vague word, so let’s elaborate with others such as powerful, smooth, soulful and passionate for starters. I’m not sure if it was because a fair few of her family and friends were in attendance, or if her cocktail was a strong as mine, but in between songs Danni told stories, and those stories took on a life their own, flowing off at many tangents. As much as I love hearing music at a gig, that’s the main reason we attend them after all, I love getting to know the person behind the songs and we got that in spades last night.

Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales: Unplugged – Bedford, 26th July 2018

I got asked what style Danni’s music is today, as I often have, and it’s really hard to pigeonhole her into one style. Americana is probably the most obvious one, and given her recognition by The Americana Music Association UK that would seem appropriate. But what is Americana? As Mary Gauthier said at Maverick festival back in 2014, you know Americana when you hear it, and that’s so right. It’s that storytelling that comes from the heart, sung with an honesty and rawness you rarely find elsewhere, more often than not accompanied by incredible guitar playing. That IS Danni Nicholls and she’s one of the very best, and last night she was on fine form.

One of the highlights for me was hearing more songs from her upcoming third album that she recorded in Nashville a few months ago. I heard two, Losing It and Ancient Embers, at the Bedford River Festival 2 weeks previous, but hearing them in this intimate setting made them sound even better. The one that really hit me, giving me chills down my spine and seeing me watching and listening in awe from start to finish, was Wild is the Water. This was co-written with the fantastic Ben Glover, who is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter with intensity to emotion oozing from every pore when he performs. Thow in Danni’s own songwriting expertise and prowess as a performer, and this was only ever going to be a masterpiece, and it is. Those words I threw earlier like powerful, passionate and soulful – just a few of the ways I can describe this song. Even better is that the new album has more songs co-written with Ben, and that excites me greatly.

With Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales - July 25th 2018

Danni started, as she traditionally does, with Long Road Home (my son Lucas’ favourite Dani Nicholls song) and finished with A Little Redemption. In between was a mixture of new and old songs, a cover of Tennessee Waltz which she sweetly dedicated to her Grandmother in attendance, natural and endearing repartee and music of the absolute highest standard. We got the chance to chat to Danni a few times throughout the night, and as always, she came across as humble as ever, and is just one of those naturally friendly souls. I managed to snag the setlist, which I like to do at gigs, signed by Danni, at which point Johnny Mudd signed his and gave it to me as well. I told you he was a lovely guy. The venue, Bears and Tales anded up being rather perfect, the lack of light on Danni aside, with great drinks and staff to match. Speaking of those drinks, a big thank you to Denise who drove back home allowing me to partake in the aforementioned gin decadence. I know I say it a lot, and I’ll keep on saying it, but Danni Nicholls is an incredibly talented musician and you owe it yourself to seek her out, listen to her music and watch her live. Then you can thank me and we can all enjoy her music together.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House – Cromer, Norfolk – May 2018

As a family we love the beach, so any time we can get a long weekend away such as the bank holiday weekend earlier this month, we take the opportunity to visit the coast. Back in 2015 we spent a week in Cromer during the summer and fell in love with the place, to the extent that I came back with a desire to move there. That didn’t happen, but we did book 2 nights in a guesthouse when my son Lucas declared that for his birthday he’d like to go back to Cromer. That’s my boy.

There wasn’t a huge amount of availability when I looked to book, given it was quite short notice, but the Sandcliff Guest House at £132 for those 2 nights and situated near the beach and only 300 years from Cromer Pier looked like a winner. I booked, then told Lucas and my wife Denise, both of whom were delighted, and a little surprised that I’d done something on a whim, rather than the huge amount of research and deliberation that usually goes into these things. Don’t believe me? Read my latest post about planning a trip to Disneyland Paris on Dedicated to DLP. Now all we had to do was wait and pray for good weather, and if the latter didn’t happen, then wrapping up warm and being by the sea would be great too. Crabbing in the rain isn’t something I’ve done before, but Lucas and I were going to give it a go, while Denise found somewhere dry to have a cup of coffee.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

We found the Sandcliff Guest House very easily, well, we were following the sat nav so there wasn’t a great deal that could go wrong, not these days. I was surprised at just how close to the beach it was, as from the photos it looked set back more into the town. I’d contacted them the day before to ask if we could park up and leave our bags until later when we’d check in, which they agreed to. However, when we got there, and grabbed one of the modest few parking spaces, they said we could put our bags in our actual room, and that if it hadn’t been cleaned yet then that would be sorted before we returned later in the day. As it happens our room has been cleaned, and so we were able to check in and get settled 2 hours before the official check in time. The guy who greeted us when we rung the bell on the desk in the foyer was very friendly and gave us all the information we needed plus our key, used to enter our room and the main door.

My first thought in entering the room was just how big it was, with a double bed at the back, and a single bed at the front, at 90 degrees to the main bed. Between the two beds were 2 faux leather bucket chairs, looking at a really rather big flat screen television which was sat on an even bigger drawer unit. With a big wardrobe, containing plenty of hangers, storage was not going to be a problem. I pulled back the net curtain and I was met with a view of the houses opposite, but further round to one of the windows pointing in a slightly different direction, and I could see the main road and even the sea. Room with a sea view – check.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

The en-suite bathroom, partitioned via a sliding door, was well equipped with a big cubicle shower, toilet, washbasin and toiletries. There were a few bits in there that could do with some upkeep, like the rust around the handle in the shower and dirt at the base of the shower door. Likewise, there were some old fitting holes in the main room that could do with tidying up. Nothing that affected our stay, but a little TLC wouldn’t go amiss. Back to the shower and more water pressure for the shower would be appreciated, would be nice to take advantage of the abundance of hot water that was gratefully utilised by all. The towels provided were plentiful, and pretty big too, something you don’t get in many hotels and is constantly a bugbear of mine.

Our room was on the ground floor, right near the front door, so when we were in bed by 9.30pm after a fun filled first day and we heard loud voices in the foyer, I thought our coastal paradise was about to take a turn for the worse. However, after a few minutes of said chatter, silence returned and we all slept until 5.50am the next morning. The time we awoke is not because of any disturbances in the hotel, but due to it being Lucas’ 10th birthday and to say he was excited would be an understatement, hence the early start. We chose not to have maid service as using towels for 2 days in a row is not a hardship, and to their credit, they do have a notice up explaining the environmental benefits of not washing towels every day. We also didn’t need our beds making and there were presents all over the room, so all in all best not to invite any staff in for undue work, and a football themed gift obstacle course.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Returning from a fun day at Bewilderwood we couldn’t get a parking space in the allocated area, but we’re lucky enough to get a free space in the parking bays across the road that leads down to the pier. Night 2 was uneventful, which is what you want when you are sleeping, and the next morning we packed up and drove to Sherringham. You don’t even need to check out as such, as there’s a slot in the desk in the foyer to drop keys into when you leave, so very much hassle free. They offer breakfast with for supplemental cost, but we were out and about and utilising the Morrisons attached to the petrol station 5 minutes away for our early morning eats, and later evening beers.

Aside from the aforementioned minor cosmetic improvements and shower water pressure, there’s nothing that could have improved our stay at the Sandcliff Guest House. It was a huge light room with great views and a stone’s throw from the beach. Beds were comfy so we all slept well and the owner was really friendly. At a cost of £132 for 2 nights, on a bank holiday weekend, I’d call it a veritable bargain. Being someone who likes familiarity and dislikes the risk of bad accommodation with any first-time stay, I’d go straight to the Sandcliff Guest House when staying in Cromer again, and can give it a big recommendation to anyone reading.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

I first heard of Whitney Rose sometime in the latter half of 2017, though her career goes back more than half a decade before that. Her latest album, Rule 62, took the number 9 spot in my Top 10 Albums of 2017, and had I listened to it more in 2017, I’m sure it would have featured higher. My ignorance of her music was equalled by my ignorance of her UK tour, which I only found out about thanks to someone mentioning it on a country music Facebook group a month before the London gig. So on Easter Sunday, exactly 4 weeks before the scheduled Green Note promoted date at The Lexington I bought a ticket, Just the one though, as this was to be my first time going solo to a gig in some years, but more on that another time.

I got into The Lexington at around 7.20am and had just under an hour to wait for support act Pepe Belmonte, who I owe a big apology to. You see, attending this gig on my own, something I haven’t done in a good while, and looking out for a friend who was going to be there later, my focus wasn’t solely on Pepe, as it should have been. That said, he was really good, mixing skilled musicianship and a good bluesy voice, with some great humour, all of which combined to make the assembled crowd very happy indeed. There was one song, in particular, that had me in stitches, but such was my preoccupation, I have forgotten any specifics. Once again, I do apologise Pepe, this is a terrible account of your time performing on Sunday, but I did really like what I heard and will make every effort to see you live again soon, and take proper notice this time.

After a short break it was time for headliner Whitney Rose to take the stage, except it wasn’t. Before Whitney came out we were treated, and yes I do mean treated, to an instrumental from her very talented band, something I’d appreciate more as the night progressed. After a few minutes Whitney joined the band, and with guitar hanging from her shoulder, she started to play, and sing. What became evident almost immediately, is that every bit of emotion that goes into writing her songs, comes out tenfold when performing them live. Though I wasn’t stood at the front I wasn’t too far away, and thanks to meeting a friend, and a new friend by consequence, I was feeling a lot more comfortable.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

Having all but her debut self-titled album, I knew almost every song, and even found myself singing along, quietly, to quite a few. I surprised myself at how well I knew her material, and thanked my lucky stars that I’d not only stumbled upon its mention but had gone, something that wasn’t a foregone conclusion 24 hours earlier. Within the first few notes of Wake Me In Wyoming I knew my favourite Whitney Rose song was being played and I was in my element. It sounded incredible, as her vocals filled the room with a dreamlike quality, something which never faltered from the very first to the very last word she sung all night. On stage Whitney has a very unique presence, commanding attention with ease. At times, when not behind the microphone she would strut, no glide, across the stage, with a knowing, almost mischievous look on her face. Whitney Rose is a textbook case of it’s not what you do, but how you do it. You only have to see her perform Can’t Stop Shakin to know what I mean.

I mentioned how great her band were earlier, but what also needs mentioned is the relationship Whitney has with them, making them a big part of the show, especially in the case of guitarist Mike Molnar who was a wizard on those 6 strings. She didn’t say a huge amount between songs, and while one part of would have liked to hear some stories about the origins of her stories, when you get them introduced with such one-liners as that song was about an a$$hole and this song is about another a$$hole, it makes up for it. There’s also the fact that with more chat comes fewer songs, and when you are watching someone as fantastic live as Whitney Rose, fewer songs is not something you even want to contemplate.

More often than not Whitney’s vocals are soulful, wistful and with a relaxed tempo, however, when let loose, as was the case with covers of Mark James’ Suspicious Minds (better known from Elvis Preseley) and Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me, I witnessed a powerhouse vocalist, proving her vocal range goes all the way up to 11. The latter of those songs she tore the house down and though the song was dedicated to all the women in attendance, and rightfully so, this man loved every second of it. Going back to Suspicious Minds and I’m reminded me of another one of her song introductions: this is the point in the night where I get sick of singing my own songs, or words to that effect. Who needs a recitation of her life story when we get statements like that, and not the dreaded fewer songs.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

As is usual these days, Whitney and band left the stage, but unlike most didn’t leave us long before coming back on stage for the encore, though sans Whitney, again. It was band spotlight time, again, and in particular guitarist Mike Molnar. This is when she played her third cover, that being Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A., a song I embarrassingly didn’t know and had to ask my friend Lesley to remind of what it was. How could I not know this song by a country legend, and my namesake at that! Though I didn’t remember it on the night, listening to the original back home since, there are shades of recollection of my childhood days coming back, maybe. Speaking of Lesley, she writes for the fantastic Belles and Gals, run by Nick who I met that night. Thanks for keeping me company guys.

Never having seen Whitney Rose live before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but on that night in London she was flawless. Natural on stage is an understatement, and at 12 or 13 songs it wasn’t the longest set for a headline act, but one of the most memorable that’s for sure. Apparently she has called her music vintage-pop-infused-neo-traditional-country, which just about covers it, the parts I understand of that description anyway. What you do get with a Whitney Rose gig is a very honest and expressive performance, with vocals that you’ll struggle to top and a band that blend perfectly and chemistry that shines. One of my favourite Whitney Rose songs is Analog, a song that could be my mantra these days, as someone who is known to leave their phone at home and listen to their Sony Walkman (Google it kids) on the walk to work. However, as she didn’t play it at this gig I think it’s only fair that she comes back very soon and includes it in her set. Do we have a deal Whitney? I also didn’t stick around to meet Whitney as I had a train to catch, and a 20 minute walk through unfamilar territory to get there – next time.

To conclude, this past Sunday was one of the very best gigs I have had the pleasure to experience, and Whitney Rose has joined a modest list of people that I will be going out of my way to see each and every time they tour over here. Just thinking back makes me smile and when music does that, you know it’s good.

Danni Nicholls Live at Slide Record Shop, Bedford for Record Store Day 2018, April 21st

I’ve been a fan of Record Store Day for a few years now, both for the interesting releases that come out each year and for the live performances that record shops up and down the country feature. I usually go to David’s Music in Letchworth, but as soon as I heard that Danni Nicholls was playing live at Slide Record Shop in Bedford I knew that would be my destination for Record Store Day 2018. You only have to read my review of when Danni played at The Borderline with Angaleena Presley last year to see what an impression she made on me. That was almost a year ago, her most recent album Mockingbird Lane has been played many times since, to say the least.

My son Lucas gave up his Saturday football training to accompany me, and it was thanks to a friendly chap in Bedford town centre that I found Slide, as he saw me attempting to use Google Maps to locate the shop, unsuccessfully, and gave me directions. We turned up at 11.30am and Danni wasn’t due to appear until 2pm, so on seeing copies of her debut album A Little Redemption and her 2017 live album, THE VINTAGE TV RECORDINGS – yes, all in capital letters, I grabbed them. I’d wanted both, especially the live album as I adore live recordings, but for some reason I hadn’t bought them yet. I’m not sure why, I think I was subconsciously waiting for an occasion such as this, where there is a possibility of getting them signed, which is a big thing for me. I actually read online that that First Cuckoo of Spring, from A Little Redemption, was featured in the first episode of season 7 of Sons of Anarchy. That just happens to be one of my top 10 favourite TV shows of all time and one that I’m currently rewatching. I’m only on season 3, so I may have to jump ahead to check that out. I also bought the Belly Record Store Day release, a 4 track 10-inch blue splatter vinyl record, two tracks from upcoming album DOVE and two unreleased tracks. The first Belly single to be released in 20 years is a pretty big thing for all us Belly fans. I should really get around to playing it sometime soon!

Belly - Feel Record Store Day 2018

Fast forward to 1.45pm and we were back in Slide after our customary trip to Subway. We made our way from the back to the front of the shop, or more I guided Lucas through, insisting that we needed to be at the front. Well, if you are going to see a live performance like this you have to do it properly, not from the back of the shop where many heads can obscure your view and passers-by can increase noise pollution. We were actually stood right near Danni, but I didn’t want to say hello and possibly interfere with her pre-performance preparation (alliteration not intended but delightedly happened upon) and ruin Record Store Day in Bedford. I’m sure she could have handled it, but I think afterwards is a better time to say hi.

Danni Nicholls Live at Slide Records, Bedford for Record Store Day 2018, April 21st

A few minutes later Danni took to the stage. Well, I day stage, but it was actually the area next to the counter that we were all looking at, so rather an area than a stage. It was quite surreal to see people still queuing to buy records while Danni kicked off with Long Road Home – welcome to record shop performances. She wasn’t fazed though, and the acoustics were really good, so it sounded as fantastic as I’d hoped, and I proudly sung along. Don’t worry, I wasn’t belting it out like some crazy karaoke person, but when a song you know and love is being performed live, you can’t help but sing along under your breath. I need to go back to my pre-performance comment, as I’m not sure Danni needs much preparation, seeming so at ease that you know watching her, that she was made to make music, and that to play her music for people is her raison d’être.

Danni Nicholls Live at Slide Records, Bedford for Record Store Day 2018, April 21st

We got treated to a couple of new songs, I think. I know there was definitely 1 new song, and Lucas says 2 and I think he might be right. Danni is set to jet off to Nashville soon to record her 3rd album, and you can be part of that over at Pledge Music, for the next week at the time of writing anyway. You absolutely should do that by the way, as based on her career so far, and the new songs I’ve heard both last Saturday and elsewhere, it’s to be in the running for album of the year, no doubt. Earlier in the day Lucas had bought the Beano to read in case he was bored. That’s no reflection on the music, he’s just a 9 year old boy with an attention span befitting of his age. Halfway through Danni’s set I handed him said comic, in case he wanted it, but he refused, instead choosing to watch and listen to Danni play. That’s my boy. Being in a record shop in her home town, it was obvious that Danni was having fun playing this gig, regaling us with stories to give us background on the songs. We were of course treated to Danni in full feeling the music mode, which I have now witnessed on the two occasions I’ve seen her live. That’s head tilted back and to the side, eyes closed, and singing from the depth her soul with palpable emotion, as evidenced the photo above and in this video of Beautifully Broken, one of my favoruites. The audio recording of my camera doesn’t do this performance justice, but it still sounds flippin’ great. Being there it had the hair on my neck stand up.

Since buying Danni’s debut album the title track, A Little Redemption, has become another favourite of mine, thanks in part I’m sure to hearing it live on Saturday, and last year in London. In that Slide record shop on Saturday it sounded superb. It also provides the crowd participation humming section, which always makes me smile, and I of course partake in. It was a short set, as these type of things traditionally are, but a fabulous one all the same. Afterwards we got to talk to Danni, and I say we, because she chatted to Lucas about his football and our plans for the weekend. I feel incredibly lucky that not only did I get to see someone who has become one of my absolute favourites in the last year, just 18 miles from my home, but to be welcomed like a friend and be able to natter away, well it’s all rather brilliant. Of course I got my new albums signed, and the setlist too which Danni kindly gave me. I love mementoes from gigs, and signed ones are the best kind. I also spotted a Danni Nicholls t-shirt so had to buy one, especially as it was rolled up and bound like an Elven scroll from Lord of the Rings. I still haven’t untied it yet – it looks so pretty! It’s not easy getting Americana and Country music t-shirts in the UK, so you have to take these opportunities when you can, and representing the artists I admire so much is something I’m proud to do.

Danni Nicholls Live at Slide Records, Bedford for Record Store Day 2018, April 21st

Danni Nicholls Live at Slide Records, Bedford for Record Store Day 2018, April 21st

As I’m sure you have gathered 1000+ words into this blog post, I had a great time on Saturday, and even more so that I was able to share it with Lucas. Just being able to get his mind away from football and Diary of a Wimpy Kid for more than 10 minutes is a feat, to enjoy a 30 minute set like this shows me he has the same taste in great singers as his Dad. He was humming Long Road Home for the rest of the day. If you don’t know of Danni Nicholls then you are in the same boat I was before that gig last summer, but it’s not too late to change that. She has a soulful smooth voice, that coupled with both her superb songwriting and ridiculously good guitar playing abilities means her music enriches the lives of everyone it touches. Danni has a headline tour in June, all the information of which is here. I have my tickets sorted and will also be seeing her at The Long Road festival in September. I’m also eying up an autumn date and hoping for an album launch gig too. Greedy? No, you can never have too much live music, and not when it’s as good as what Danni Nicholls offers. Oh, and those two albums of hers I bought on Saturday – they have been played A LOT in the last 24 hours, and I feel like a kid in a sweet shop, at Christmas. So good.

Album Review: Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

I realise Golden Hour has been out for a couple of weeks now, but rather than write about Kacey Musgraves’ third and latest album, I was listening to it…over, and over and over again. Without even the slightest hint of hyperbole I have never, that I can remember, listened to an album so many times in a short space of time. I think I clocked in 6 complete listen throughs in the first 24 hours and that number had reached 10 by the end of 48 hours. I knew from hearing Space Cowboy and Butterflies which were released before the album, and songs such as Slow Burn and High Horse at Country to Country, that Golden Hour was going to be a different sound to her previous 2 albums. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how appealing that sound was going to be to me.

Album Review: Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

As soon as the intro to Slow Burn kicks in I get a sense of calm, and then when Kacey’s trademark vocals kick in it’s as if I’ve been injected with happy juice, such is the feeling of pleasure I get from hearing her music. As much as I loved, and still do love, Same Trailer Different Park and Pageant Material they never elicited the feelings I get from hearing Golden Hour, which more than 2 weeks on now is still utter joy. I love that Kacey has given us something different with this album, and while it’s undeniably country (as much as labelling music seems almost redundant in an era where the lines defining them seem very blurred) we get a spacey cosmic sound, which given Kacey’s Instagram handle is spaceykacey, it was surely only on a matter of time. It’s not just musically that we see changes, as the lyrics are more reflective, mature and in songs such as Butterflies, blissfully happy. We haven’t lost the blunt and humorous observations that have been a trademark of Kacey’s previous music, as High Horse deals with that person that we all know, who manages to get eyes rolling every time they open their mouth – I know I do.

Whilst Space Cowboy is an absolute anthem, and sounded incredible live, filling The O2 with space country decadence, Mother tugs on the heartstrings like nothing else on Golden Hour, or anything I’ve heard in quite some time. If your Mother is still around, you’ll be calling her after hearing this. I was lucky, Golden Hour came out on Friday 30th and I was due to spend the weekend with my Mum (I don’t call her Mother so I’m returning to my own lexicon), so I didn’t have to wait long. Emotion is also in spades at the end of this album in the shape of the utterly sublime piano ballad Rainbow, a song that has been existence for a number of years, and to be honest, it fits so well on Golden Hour that I’m glad it was not released before now.

Kacey has such a gorgeous tone to her voice that the cliche of hearing her sing the phonebook most certainly applies, but with Golden Hour that’s not needed, and instead we have an album of beautiful songs that I personally can’t get enough of. I feel very encouraged that Kacey has evolved as an artist, written songs from the heart, and created the greatest album of her career so far. As a huge fan of Kacey Musgraves, I now know that no matter what direction her creativity goes, she’ll still be making music of the absolute highest quality, and selfishly, that makes me very happy. Kacey is on tour later this year and having tickets to see her at Wembley, knowing I’ll be hearing these songs live again, is bloody fantastic. Right now, as I write this blog post, and after listening to Golden Hour maybe 25 -30 times in the last weeks, possibly more, there is still no album I’d rather I’d listen to. Right now, Golden Hour is my favourite album OF ALL TIME, so congratulations on this masterpiece Kacey, and thank you.

The Long Road Festival Announces Lineup – Spoiler, It’s Amazing!

A little while ago this festival called The Long Road kind of appeared on social media and had it’s home on the internet at thelongroad.com. At this point we didn’t know a great deal about it, other than it was set to run September 9th-11th and is being spearheaded by BBC Radio and Chris Country’s very own Baylen Leonard. He does other stuff too, but that’s where I know him from. We got to see the layout and that it was more than just music, with activities and themed areas, plus it’s outside. A big-time outdoor country music festival – you know, like the ones they have in America that us UK fans feel so hard done by that we don’t get. It being in Leicestershire, in the grounds of Stanford Hall, also meant that selfishly for me being in Hertfordshire, it’s not too far away.

Last week we got the exciting news that the lineup would be announced today, 2 days BEFORE the tickets go on sale. At 5pm, just a few hours ago, the lineup was released, and it’s brilliant. Set your eyes upon this incredible bunch of musicians appearing at the inaugural Long Road Festival:

The Long Road 2018 Lineup

Have a look around this blog and you’ll see that Ashley Campbell, Angaleena Presley and Danni Nicholls (album #3 Pledge Music campaign – go pre-order now) are among my absolute favourites, all of who I’ve been lucky enough to see live in the last 12 months and am very excited to see again in September, especially in this unique setting. The Worry Dolls I saw at my local record store last year and were fab, and The Shires I haven’t seen since their media showcase gig with Cassadee Pope back in 2014, aside from a cameo appearance at a Striking Matches in Union Chapel. Oh yeah, Striking Matches are there too, so I can look forward to some guitar playing par excellence. Actually, Danni Nicholls is quite the 6 string wizard herself – collaboration please! Megan O’Neill is someone I am only recently becoming more familiar with, and her new single Without is fantastic, as her upcoming album promises to be too.

My personal favourites aside, Billy Bragg and Lee Ann Womack will be performing – 2 giant names who I know but have never seen live. There are also a bunch of other acts I have been keen to see live, and some names I don’t know and am looking forward to discovering for the first time. The big decision for me is how to accommodate myself, as I’ll be going to solo due to my son going off for a week with school early on the Monday morning. So, do I attempt to camp, on my own, or grab a room in a local B&B. I’m leaning more to the latter such is my lack of camping experience, but we’ll see. I may just get a camping ticket and decide nearer the time. Non-camping early bird tickets start from as little as £85 and go on sale on Thursday at 9am here. That’s an absolute bargain, so really, there are no excuses for not going – I’ll see you there! I used to run a country music blog called 4000 Miles to Nashville, but with The Long Road it’ll feel like Nashville is right here.

100 Word Book Review: Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives – Edited by Holly Gleason

100 Word Book Review: Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives - Edited by Holly Gleason

It felt like this book was made for me, given how many incredible female country music artists fill my playlist on a daily basis. What I didn’t realise, until I received and opened it, was that each featured artist is chronicled by a different writer, giving many different perspectives and experiences. It’s fascinating, reading the varied journeys of each of these musicians, and how their music affected the writer, and the world beyond. I have A LOT of music to discover after reading this incredible book. It’s both fascinating and inspiring, the only shortcoming is the lack of photos.

****1/2 (out of 5)

100 Word Book Reviews are a maximum of 100 words, but can be less

Buy from Amazon: Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives