An influx of Nashville’s finest once again cross the Atlantic for the annual Country Music Week in London.
The rise of the domestic Americana scene has opened the doors for the genre’s international peers to hotfoot it to the UK with an aim to making a name for themselves on this side of the pond.
The CMA has done a great job of promoting country music back in the US as well as here in Europe. And this evening’s event at the Sage Gateshead which is simply titled Introducing Nashville, brings together a quartet of the hottest emerging talent from Music City.
Once again Hall 2 at the Sage Gateshead is packed to the rafters. And despite the fact that most of the artists appearing are making their North East debut this evening, the knowledgeable country fans in attendance are all very familiar with their material.
The aforementioned sentiment is apparent at the top of the evening when Danielle Bradbery takes the crowd through her single Stray. The artist is completely taken back, as the whole room sings along both unexpectedly and wholeheartedly.
Having made her name on the US version of The Voice, where Bradbery was taken under the wings of country legend Blake Shelton, the artist became the youngest performer to win the programme at just the age of 16. But now 23 years old, Danielle is truly come into her own, and tracks such as Wild Boy and What Are We Doing, are the perfect example of contemporary country music at its finest. Whilst, her final song of the evening I Don’t Believe We’ve Met is nothing short of stratospheric. Danielle is a star in the making.
During the course of the evening, Rachel Wammack delivered a suite of beautiful and emotive piano ballads such as her first country radio single Damage, and the previously unreleased Hometown Spirit. The latter of which being a homage, to her old stomping ground of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
However, this is a stark contrast to country rock-tinged sounds of Travis Denning, who arrives bedecked in a baseball cap, jacket and snakeskin boots and jams out bars of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, and sings lyrics about AC/DC in his track Somewhere In Song. Denning looks and sounds the part, and his witty banter is on point throughout.
Sat to Denning’s left is Walker Hayes, who despite his success, a lot of people at home think he is ruining country music in America. But he welcomes the open-mindedness of the Brits who embrace his funky, modern take on this age-old genre. Songs like the humorous Old Dominion collaboration Your Girlfriend Does, heartfelt ballad Don’t Let Her, and Halloween featuring Wammack on backing vocals are some of the standout moments of the evening.
The beauty of tonight’s show is that each artist brings something a little bit different from the proceedings. They each approach country music from a different angle or perspective, but collectively they are all singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak.
Wammack reminisces about her time working in a bar in the US, where she would regularly listen to patrons over the bar, looking for a friendly ear to share in their problems. But tonight that role is reversed, as the Sage Gateshead crowd become the bartenders as they listen to those on stage pouring out their heart and soul through their songs. An interesting situation for both parties to find themselves in this evening.
One thing which really sets the great songwriters apart from the rest is their storytelling ability and on the strength of tonight’s performance, this is something that each of these artists has in spades. The audience at the Sage Gateshead leaves the venue both entertained and thoroughly enlightened.