48 hours ago we were barefoot and dancing to a Dixie Chicks cover being performed by a group of lads from Yorkshire (The Pauper Kings). In the heart of London’s financial district, we were the movers and shakers, soaking up the surreal contrasts of the first (and hopefully not last) Nashville Meets London festival. We were revelling in the juxtaposition of songs about small American towns against the backdrop of Canary Wharf’s glistening towers; of English accents singing soulful songs of The South (or at least of south-west England); of Pimm’s on a picnic blanket alongside Jack Daniels.
But now it is Monday. That’s the trouble with great country-filled weekends like Nashville Meets London (which are thankfully becoming more regular on our UK calendar). They end.
I’d like to hang on to Saturday a little longer. The inaugural free festival was a blend of country artists from both sides of the Atlantic showcasing the gamut of country music. On the rockier side there was the new-to-me but instantly familiar feeling Logan Mize from Kansas. On the bluesier side the inimitable Yola Carter who I’m giving the catchy nickname of Black British Female Chris Stapleton and who had my country-virgin companions converted.
Monday, however, means a world where no one will compliment my boots – or if they do, I’ll wonder whether they’re being genuine. Monday is a place where if I mention I like country music someone is likely to sing Achy Breaky Heart at me. Monday brings cramped commutes and a 9-5 that isn’t a Dolly Parton song.
This particular Monday – since I do not want to relive the post-C2C grieving period – I’m determined to deal with the comedown by simply not coming down. Instead, I’ll be borrowing some advice from the green cross code in hopes of staying on the country cloud.
Before I lament the ending of another milestone on the expanding UK country music scene, I ought to take a moment to pinch myself. There was a time when the prospect of singing along with country loving friends in my home city under the stars (albeit stars masked by the London light pollution) would have seemed like a chapter from a novel set in a utopian future. But it has become our glorious reality. So I’ll try to remember that having a country ‘high’ to comedown from is a blessing.
On all the occasions of being on holiday in the U.S. and not wanting to leave the hotel room because I’d discovered CMT, I’d desperately wished we could get that TV channel in the U.K. Well, we still can’t, but if you have a H.D. ready TV retune and you’ll get the Europe’s own new country music channel – Keep it Country TV – on freeview channel 87. If you don’t have a fancy TV (it took me 6 attempts at retuning before realising I don’t) you can watch live online. Plus, as well as being spoilt with a 24/7 dedicated country music channel, remember the next series of Nashville starts on Sky Living Thursday 25th August 10 p.m.
God bless the internet. Waiting for Bob Harris Country on a Thursday evening was good but never quite enough. Being able to listen to his mix of music and interviews again on iplayer was a help but still over too quickly. For a constant fix, Chris Country radio, online and on DAB in some regions, is the go-to station for new country and also for connecting the UK country community.
I squealed when Reba was came over to play Wembley about 5 years ago. This was a rare and treasured treat. Now though – thanks to brave pioneers like Eric Church and Brad Paisley – contemporary country acts are visiting us more than ever before. I’m convinced the cure for post-festival blues is to day-dream about / book tickets for the next country high. There is a bounty of country artists touring this autumn (Cadillac Three, Kenny Rogers, Margo Price,The Shires, Brandy Clark, Thomas Rhett, Ward Thomas…) but also check out country music nightclub events Nashville Nights coming to cities all over the land, featuring DJs like Nashville Meets London festival co-organiser Baylen Leonard.
Please feel free to share any tips you have for ‘Keeping it Country’ day to day in the comment section below.