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

My Top 10 Animated Disney Films – 2018

I’m sure there are many people who will raise their eyebrows substantially when reading this, but this is the list of my top 10 favourite animated Disney films, at least today anyway. I didn’t grow up with Disney so I have no childhood memories of watching Disney films, except Bambi, which I find as dull now as I did then. This doesn’t include Pixar films, that’s another list for another time. Disagree? Leave your own list in the comments.

My Top 10 Animated Disney Films – 2018

  1. Moana
  2. Frozen
  3. Tarzan
  4. Lilo and Stitch
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  7. Pinocchio
  8. Fantasia
  9. Aladdin
  10. Tangled

My Top 10 Disneyland Paris Rides – 2018

This started out as a blog post right here but then turned in to an episode on my Dedicated to DLP Podcast, which you can listen to here. Now it’s back to being a blog post again. There was no clever algorithm used to calculate the placings, no deep thought, just the simple question: if I were in Disneyland Paris right now, what would I go on first? And so on.

My Top 10 Disneyland Paris Rides – 2018

  1. Big Thunder Mountain
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean
  3. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  4. Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop
  5. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
  6. Ratatouille: The Adventure
  7. Peter Pan’s Flight
  8. Cars Race Rally
  9. it’s a small world
  10. Phantom Manor*

*This list assumes all rides are actually open – hey, my blog, my rules.

100 Word Book Review: Night School – Lee Child

100 Word Book Review: Night School - Lee Child

For 20 books I lapped up the adventures of the almost superhuman Jack Reacher, revelling in his ability to outsmart and outmuscle any adversary that stood in his way. That didn’t change for this 21st instalment, and it’s always interesting seeing Reacher leave the US, and team up with his old pal Frances Neagley. However, with just a few pages to go it seemed like we were headed for a cliffhanger, but instead the story wrapped up rather abruptly, with a sprint to the last page and the usual Jack Reacher departure. The first Lee Child book to leave me unfulfilled.

*** (out of 5)

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

100 Word Book Review: No Is a Four-Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling But Succeeded in Life – Chris Jericho

!00 Word Book Review: No Is a Four-Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling But Succeeded in Life - Chris Jericho

I like wrestling, I like rock music, Chris Jericho is one of my favourite wrestlers and I enjoyed his first three books, a lot. This actually reads like a self-help book, with a difference – Jericho makes it interesting with stories from two wildly different but also very similar worlds, and the advice he gives actually makes sense, and I have integrated some of it into my life since. There’s an air of arrogance, but that’s the Jericho character and it only works for him. My only real complaint is that it was too short – book five soon, please.

**** (out of 5)

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

Country to Country Presents: Ashley Campbell, Mo Pitney, The Adelaides at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2018

Rewind back to Country to Country 2016 and I walked into The O2 as one Ashley Campbell started her set. It soon became apparent that this was Glenn Campbell’s daughter, whose music I knew and had liked for many years. What also became apparent was just how talented she was, and is, both as a singer and musician. On banjo particularly she was spectacular, and stood out, because although this was a three day Country festival banjos were a rare sighting. It was when she played Remembering that hairs pricked up on the back of my neck and I realised I was watching something special.

I kept an eye on Ashley’s music for the next two years, eager for an album, which came the same day as the Friday of Country to Country 2018. I saw Ashley perform on the Saturday of Country to Country and you can read my thoughts on that here. That wasn’t enough though, so this past Tuesday I contacted a friend and we booked tickets to see her headline gig at The Borderline in London this past Saturday. Of course, the weather had to change yet again, and snow threatened my attendance, but I figured as long as I got there, what came after would be a bridge I’d cross when I got there. So off to London I went.

I’ve always liked The Borderline as a avenue, but even more so since they refurbished it and made it more roomy by the stage area. A 20 minute wait in the freezing snow and we were inside, where thankfully the heating was on. First on stage were a relatively new trio called The Adelaides, who I’d heard of and caught maybe 2 minutes of at Country to Country where they were doing a cover of Maren Morris’ My Church, but not enough to make any kind of real judgment. Firmly in the pop country camp they kicked off the night with a ton of energy and actually sounded pretty damn good. Two of the ladies play guitar and sing, with a dedicated singer front and centre. On stage it’s evident they are fairly new to this, and could do with focusing more on who they are and what they want as a music act, rather than worrying about how they look, but that will come with experience. Having three people sing can sometimes be unnecessary if they all sound the same, but all three ladies have very different tones, from deep (relatively) gravel to high pop, and harmonise well. They finished off their set with a really fun song called jellybaby, which I’ll let you Google and discover for yourself. I probably wouldn’t go specifically to see The Adelaides play, not yet anyway, but I’d be more than happy to see them on the bill of a gig I had tickets for.

Country to Country Presents The Adelaides at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2017

Mo Pitney took to the stage next, and another artist that I knew the name of from the previous weekend’s Country to Country festivities, but whose music I wasn’t familiar with. On stage he didn’t have the effervescent smiles of The Adelaides, but that suited his demeanour and his music. That’s not to say he never smiled, as a wry grin made an appearance now and then, but Mo’s steely, almost distant gazes out to the crowd as he sung, is something I’ve not seen a lot of, but worked well. As a singer Mo has a big voice, that seems to emanate effortlessly. Now that’s a cliche when hearing music reviews, but really, if vocal power was like a car accelerating, then Mo’s voice is at around 3.2 seconds, approximately.

Country to Country Presents Mo Pitney at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2017

Mo Pitney is an old soul in a young body, and is reminiscent of the country music many fans clamour for in a genre that expands and evolves daily. With his skilful guitar playing and story filled songs his gigs are a joy to watch. I always appreciate getting to know an artist, and Mo afforded us that privilege, most notably when regaling us with the time he met Merle Haggard, which was of course followed by the uncomplicated but pleasing song, I Met Merle Haggard Today. His brother and sister joined him on stage for a few numbers, adding bass and harmonising vocals, and depth to his set. I’d not heard any Mo Pitney before this Saturday just gone, now I’ll be buying his album and looking out for future gigs.

A few minutes later and it was time for Ashley Campbell, as she came on stage in the same glittery rose emblazoned jacket she wore at Country to Country. I only yesterday saw the Glenn Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me, so I’ll take a stab in the dark that she is honouring her father with that jacket, given he had a jacket with red roses on it too. Thanks to a few people moving around I had the perfect view of Ashley, her brother Shannon on guitar and Eli on fiddle. Earlier in the day I’d tweeted Ashley asking for Better Boyfriend to be on the playlist, and I’d like to think that was a pivotal part of the decision process which led to her opening with that exact song. Ashley has such a sweet and classicly gorgeous country voice that just makes me smile. When she’s on stage it seems like there is absolutely no other place she’d rather be and nothing she’d want to do more. That passion and commitment is evident in her performance, which makes it ultimately more pleasurable for us in the crowd.

Country to Country Presents Ashley Campbell at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2017

Ashley’s debut album The Lonely One is fantastic, but seeing those songs performed live, in such an intimate venue with great acoustics, well, it was pretty bloody fantastic. I’m always in awe at her banjo playing, and thankfully she didn’t disappoint, and with Shannon’s guitar playing and Eli’s fiddle skills, we had three great musicians on stage. Not to mention that Ashley swaps between guitar and banjo, depending on the song. We also got an example of Eli’s world record holding clapping – yes, you read that right. Of course since I’ll Be Me, and as Ashley’s first single, Remembering has become a career trademark song already, and one I was looking forward to seeing live for the third time. Once again I got goosebumps, even more so seeing up close the chemistry between Ashley and Shannon, as they sang about their father. Whilst I loved seeing her perform Gentle On My Mind, Remembering has more of an impact on me, because it’s her song.

Ashley is a very much at ease on stage, no doubt coming from years in the spotlight and taking to some of the biggest stages in the world at a young age. She also acts very naturally up there – no airs and graces, just Ashley Campbell. I say just, that’s a charming and endearing, and sometimes vulnerable young lady, who somehow even makes banjo tuning an enjoyable spectator sport, and educational too. I never knew banjos go out of tune quicker in the cold weather, but I do now. She finished her set with Looks Like Time, which she encouraged us to join in on and we great time singing along to some well written, and fun lyrics, and relishing to the opportunity to sing ‘a$$’ – hey, some things never fail to titillate. There’s some pop, some Mariachi, but ultimately Ashley Campbell is country, quite literally, through and through.

Country to Country Presents Ashley Campbell and Mo Pitney at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2017

For an encore, we got a collaboration with Mo and Ashley, as he her joined back on stage for three songs, including an impromptu bluegrass number which saw Mo on guitar, Ashley on banjo and Eli on fiddle playing a storm and making this guy grin from ear to ear. Live music really doesn’t get much better. Mo and Ashley had great chemistry on stage and I’d certainly love to see them play again sometime – even forgetting who sang which bit was done in such a way to keep us all smiling and entertained. At one point in Ashley’s main set she and Shannon showed off the Ashley Campbell koozies and extolled their virtues of keeping your beer can cool but not your hand. They didn’t say they were available to buy but I was hoping they would be, and so was delighted to be able to buy one pink and one black from the merch stand afterwards.

Country to Country Presents Meeting Ashley Campbell at The Boderline, London Review – 17th March 2017

I’ve been to The Borderline a few times so knew where to loiter in hope of meeting Ashley, and after three or four people in front of me I got to tell her how much I loved her music, and how much I’d enjoyed seeing her perform live again. I also requested that she come back again soon, whilst she signed my koozie. She was utterly charming and seemed genuinely appreciative of my comments. I was already a big fan of Ashley Campbell before Saturday night, but after that gig on Saturday night I’m an even bigger fan. Today I received the I’ll Be Me soundtrack on CD so now, at last, own a physical copy of Remembering. Ashley, as I said two nights ago, please do come back soon. And dear reader, don’t hesitate for one second if you get the opportunity to see Ashley live – she’s up there with the very best, and with such a huge career ahead of her.