There has been a real groundswell in country music in the UK in recent years which has been largely fueled on by the success of our homegrown talent on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Subsequently, this interest in country music has also opened the door for an influx of US-based artists to both perform and tour in the UK. 

This week marks the introduction of Country Music Week in London, and as such, there is a whole raft of international talent performing both in the capital with many venturing a bit further afield.

This evening the Country Music Association brings its CMA Songwriter Series to the North East of England. The show brings with it in tow four incredible US-based country stars Randy Houser, Eric Paslay, Angaleena Presley and Michael Tyler

Three of the four singer/songwriters in attendance have never performed in the UK before, with Angaleena Presley being the only exception. Therefore, it is no surprise that a packed out crowd is in attendance at the Sage Gateshead to witness these country superstars up close and personal for their debut show in the North of England.

As the foursome takes to the stage, they sit in a line each perched on top of their bar stools, armed with only their acoustic guitars. Like songwriter circles back home, they each take their turn to share songs, stories and anecdotes from throughout their careers. Each artist brings with them their own very unique flavour of country music to the Tyneside audience.

As one artist sings, both the audience and the remainder of the songwriters on stage sit transfixed and attentive, that is if they can stop themselves from singing along.

Randy Houser has witnessed consecutive No. 1 hits and more than four million in singles sales to date with his third studio record How Country Feels. Throughout the course of the evening, Houser showcases tracks like the heartfelt love song “Addicted”, the deeply emotive “Lead Me Home”, his hit single “Goodnight Kiss” and his CMA Song of the Year-nominated “Like A Cowboy.” Houser’s powerful voice fills the room, he makes his vocal performance seem effortless, frequently hitting sustained high notes.

With each song, the baton is passed on to the next artist, and Angaleena Presley has the task of following Houser. She mocks ‘I wish Randy would learn how to sing,’ the crowd laughs before she continues by stating ‘It’s like following Pavarotti’. 

Presley is the Yin to Houser’s Yang, they balance each other out, as Angaleena put’s it she is the voice of reason. If Randy performs a love song like “Addicted”, Angaleena would follow with an anti-love song like “Drunk”. She informs the audience that ‘her now ex-husband was not addicted to their love’. This toing and froing continues throughout the show.

Of course, Angaleena Presley is no stranger to the Sage Gateshead, having performed in this very room a few months prior as part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival. Presley is overjoyed to see fans sporting her t-shirt in amongst the crowd.

At the age of 23, Michael Tyler is the youngest artist on the stage this evening. Tyler performs several tracks from his debut record 317 including the beautiful number about his home state “Songs About Missouri” and his current radio single “They Can’t See”. Tyler rounds out his performance with the No 1 hit he wrote for Dierks Bentley “Somewhere On A Beach”. Tyler’s contemporary brand of country has mainstream appeal and it’s no surprise that superstars like Bentley and Jason Aldean have been queuing up to work with him. 

At the end of the line, Texas-born country star Eric Paslay is passed the musical baton from Tyler. Paslay’s infectious brand of country music really strikes a chord with the Geordie crowd. Tracks like “Bearfoot Blue Jean Night” which became a Number 1 hit for Jake Owen and “Friday Night” are so catchy that they stay with you for days.

Paslay speaks of the tragic events in Vegas earlier in the week which has both rocked the world and the country music community to the core before breaking into “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”, which he wrote along with Will Hoge. As the song progresses Eric segues a few bars of Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly”, which is the perfect ending to an incredible evening of music.

What people tend to forget is that most songs start off as ideas jammed out and developed on an acoustic guitar. Tonight, the fans in attendance at the CMA Songwriters Series got to hear some of the songs made famous by this uber-talented quartet in their rawest possible form and most likely in the format to which they were conceived.

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.

Randy Houser
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Eric Paslay
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Angaleena Presley
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Michael Tyler
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Event Date: 04-Oct-2017

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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