I finally got Non-Country Boyfriend (NCB) to come to a country music festival with me. He’d had to collect his dad from hospital the day he was due to join me at Buckle and Boots. Then he broke his shoulder the week before The Long Road. And the jury is still out on whether he started a global pandemic to get out of Country 2 Country in March.
OK, so he didn’t technically have to “come to” the festival with me. He simply needed to not leave my flat when I streamed every virtual event through my TV last week, as the usually London-based Country Music Week went entirely digital.
As much as he’ll protest and tell you he only came over for the constant supply of old-fashioned cocktails, he did return, night after night. Since we met at a friend’s birthday drinks when he called country music “beige”, this is a epic progress.
So (as I was high on hearing new live-ish music and would’ve been elated to hear Ashley McBryde even sing the alphabet song) I’ve let non-Country Boyfriend become the unwitting reviewer of Digital Country Music week 2020 even though he spent far too much of the time discussing the various artist’s guitar colours.
I don’t think he noticed me sneakily jotting down his reactions to the range of intimate sessions flooding my living room from across the Atlantic, as if no distance existed between us and the Bluebird Café. And I’m 50% sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing. So here are his top three sets from the seven-day celebration (plus how you can catch up with them if you missed out).
MONDAY: Song Suffragettes
It’s day one of country music week. I have suggested he comes over straight after work and I cook him dinner. He is suspsicious. Me; “Oh, look babe, something called the Song Suffragettes is starting…” He does not buy my innocent act, but settles in anyway for the set live from Nashville’s Listening Room, with video links to UK singers like Twinnie included in the female only songwriters’ round. He perks up at Kalie Shorr; her wittiness on Gatsby has us both smiling, and he comments she has Alanis Morrisette vibes. But the real win is the next day when he tells my he’d been independently listening to “the one with the really nice teeth” Lainey Wilson and says her song Things a Man Oughta Know helped him (finally) grasp what I mean when I go in about country music’s intelligent and surprising lyrics. Success!
You can watch the whole show Song Suffragette special below.
SUNDAY: Kyle Daniel
It’s the last day of Country Music Week and, following a roast dinner out, he’s volunteered to come back to mine knowing that I’ve got back to back virtual gigs lined up. Surely this is evidence he’s now a true convert? He’s feet up on the sofa, tapping along straight away and says ‘this one’s all right’ as Kyle Daniel starts his facebook live. Knowing NCB, this is code for “I’m really liking this but don’t want you say ‘I told you so’”. He’s quiet and engaged for the soulful 25 minute set. You can replay it on Kyle Daniel’s facebook page here.
SUNDAY: Rodney Atkins / Rose Falcon
This one’s the wild card. We are screen sharing the Curb Records showcase with the rest of the Brits in Boots. The short event featured Tim Dugger, Jackson Michelson, Ruthie Collins, American Young, Mo Pitney, Rodney Atkins and Lee Brice. Although it’s just two pre-recorded songs from each artist, I’m over the moon to hear any new music from Mo Pitney and we are treating the Lee Brice numbers as compensation for his postponed UK tour.
“Oooh” NCB pipes up “Who’s she? she’s great!” And of all the people I’ve been playing him all week, the person who’s drawn unreserved praise is someone not actually on the bill. She is Rodney Atkins’ wife, singer-songwriter Rose Falcon whose songs have been recorded by Lady A, Faith Hill and Eric Paslay. She may only be taking part because Rodney’s session is from their home on an impressive looking porch, but their harmonies on Figure You Out are flawless and steal the show. NCB may have taste after all. See what got him so excited below.
For me, the biggest surprise of the week is that he did not fall at my feet and declare Country Music the Greatest Genre of All Time after our Friday Night ‘in’ the Bluebird Café. Alongside specials like the Saturday Night quiz and Sunday night zoom Q&A with Bob Harris, this was a stand out event for me. The camraderie, humour and talent between Ashley McBryde, Lindsay Ell and Carly Pearce was so captivating. Combined with my own candlelit spot with friends faces on zoom filling out the audience, it was almost like being there.
But I don’t think NCB ever got over Ashley McBryde having a whole song about Styrofoam. It was as if he hadn’t previously believed me every time I’d said “there’s a country song for everything”. Playing him Red Solo Cup straight after to prove that having a song about disposable partyware wasn’t strange, did not help.
Did you get involved with Digital Country Music Week? What stood out for you?