Country music and fish ‘n’ chips – an obvious combination of course… Well perhaps not but The Shires made it work at the London launch party for their debut album, ‘Brave’, which took place in an active fish and chip restaurant.
Admittedly, it was a strange experience sitting eating a meal while the UK’s first country act to break into the Top 10 casually sang their hits and about to be hits; but as Ben (the male half of the duo in case you wondered) said, it gave the evening a lovely family dinner feel. Albeit a surreal family dinner – especially since singer Seal even popped in for supper while we were there.
So I’m supposed to tell you about the music… well, I’m woefully underqualified to comment on harmonies, chords and other musical ‘things’ but what I can tell you is that they sounded good, really good, have great rapport with the audience and are probably two of the nicest people you could hope to meet.
And then I have a confession to make. I’ve never liked Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing ‘Islands in the Stream’. There, I’ve said it. So when I heard Ben and Crissie sing this song on their album for the first time, I thought it was some new song. With their soulful, acoustic sound, it finally clicked for me. Hearing it live… even better.
With the prerequisite drinking song, a reference to the Mason-Dixon Line and love-gone-wrong/right songs, they’ve got their country music genre credentials sorted out. And hearing them play in the midst of current debates about what exactly constitutes country music, it’s interesting (and refreshing) to listen to songs like ‘Made in England’ and ‘Nashville Grey Skies’.
Clearly, the bottom line is that music doesn’t have to come out of the Deep South to be country. Instead, like The Shires say we can “build our own Nashville underneath these grey [British] skies”. And our Nashville definitely has fish and chips in it.
So with hearty food (thanks to Poppies) and happy ears (thanks to poignant, memorable music), we don’t have a rating system, but if we did I’d give them five stars. Or should that be Stetsons?
The Brave album’s out now and The Shires tour dates can be found in our Country Gig Guide.
@judiburger for @UKCountryBlog