(5 / 5)
It’s here. Country2Country Festival 2017; now in its fifth year. Bringing some of the biggest names in country music across the pond to delight more than 80,000 fans at arenas in London, Ireland and Scotland for the annual shindig.
This year the likes of country Royalty Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire and Zac Brown Band are booked to strut their stuff for the sold out events at London’s 02 Arena, The SEC Glasgow and the 3Arena Dublin.
C2C was first launched in March 2013 at The O2, London as a two-day event with Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw as headliners. This was Tim McGraw’s first UK appearance. Outside of the main arena, a small amount of free Pop Up Stages presented local country acts. This was the year I shot pix and reviewed the London event, and sadly I have not been back since through “other commitments.” Next time….
In 2014, C2C launched in Dublin O2 (now 3Arena) taking place on the same weekend as the London event, with artists switching venues each day. Headliners in London and Dublin in 2014 were Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band. The Dixie Chicks also performed – their first UK performance in eight years. CMA Songwriters Series and after-show parties were added in London, and the Shires and Ward Thomas first performed on the Pop Up Stages.
In 2015, C2C was back with headliners Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum. This was Luke Bryan’s first UK appearance. In Glasgow C2C also presented ‘C2C Presents’ presenting most of the line-up of the festival over two week nights ahead of the London/Dublin weekend. In London, a small stage in the arena featured short performances by new artists including Sam Hunt and Bob Harris’ Under the Apple Tree Stage was added.
In 2016, C2C grew into three days and added C2C Glasgow at the Clyde Auditorium. Headliners were: Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church. First UK appearance for Lambert and Church. Chris Stapleton also made his UK and Ireland debut. In London artists including Maren Morris and Charles Esten – from the hit TV Show Nashville – performed on the new artist stage in the arena now named The Yamaha Music Stage. New stages outside of the arena included the Bluebird Café, BBC Radio 2 Country Stage and the late night ‘Sounds Like Nashville’ Stage.
In 2017, Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire and the Zac Brown Band are the headliners, with the likes of Chris Young, Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker, Hunter Hayes, Marty Stuart and Maren Morris sharing the man stage, among others. Many, many more UK and US artists and bands grace the other stages at this years’ tri-country C2C festival.
On day one of the 2017 festival, this little gem is released, to thrill all those of us who cannot make this year’s extravaganza in the flesh and to bring back memories of previous years’ artists. A cracking 40-track, two-disc set, offering 40 of today’s major country stars and some truly superb cuts. This is not rejected inferior tracks from yesteryear stars, or wanna-be’s who never-will-be. This is the cream of the crop and some exciting up-and-coming artists giving us some very strong material.
Compiled by the UK’s foremost authority on all things country; journalist, publisher and music promoter Alan Cackett, who we are honoured to have here at Music Republic Magazine as our very first columnist. With his straight-talking monthly column, “Off The Record with Alan Cackett.” Go read his first two columns (Feb & March) now in our Features Zone (after getting to the end of this review, of course!)
Alan selected the artists and the tracks, and he wrote the informative ‘sleeve notes’ in the 24-page booklet. This is a real ‘who’s who’ of modern country and an essential addition to any music collection, if you love country, or if you want to dip your toe in the water to find out what all the fuss is about. No longer is country music relegated to one hour a week on a weekday night on one national radio station. Country hit the mainstream with the likes of Faith Hill, Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks and Garth Brooks a few years ago, and has grown and grown ever since to become as popular as pop music to many.
Europe’s biggest and most successful country music festival draws in people from all over the world every March. This double disc delight gives us music from some of the acts appearing this year and from those who have graced the stage in the previous four years. It opens with the Zac Brown Band’s “Beautiful Drug,” Country Queen Reba McEntire gives us “Consider Me Gone.” Darius Rucker, former front man of the US group Hootie and the Blowfish ,” is a firm favourite among country fans today, and he delivers “Come Back Song,” before Hunter Hayes gives us “I Want Crazy (Encore)”.
Then choice cuts from Cam, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne, Kip Moore, Catherine McGrath and Maddie & Tae. Stand-out cuts include Brantley Gilbert’s “One Hell Of An Amen,” and the wonderful Rascal Flatts with “Banjo”.
Superstar (and Faith Hill’s other half) Tim McGraw played the debut C2C in 2013, and here he sings “Southern Girl.” Thomas Rhett provides “Make Me Wanna,” before two cuts from two of today’s foremost country women; “Ashley Monroe” and Miranda Lambert. Luke Bryan with “Strip It Down,” precedes the fun “Drunk On A Plane,” by Dierks Bentley. The UK’s very own singing sisters, Ward Thomas, have stormed the charts with their music and are doing really well out there, alongside the current darlings of UK country, The Shires (who pop up on disc two). WT offer the penultimate track on Disc One, with “Guilty Flowers,” before Sam Hunt closes proceedings with his fine cut “House Party”.
If your country thirst was not quenched on the first disc and those superb 20 tracks, then get a load of this. Brad Paisley opens the second CD with “The Mona Lisa,” Chris Young tells us “I’m Comin’ Over,” so I better get a duster around my gaff then, quick! One half of the superstar duo Sugarland (with Kristian Bush), and a star in her own right too, Jennifer Nettles, is her usual superb self on “That Girl.
This year the festival has secured the services of veteran country legend Marty Stuart. I recall my very first trip to Nashville in 2004, and I was filling a basket full of goodies at the now closed Tower Records in Music City, and a crowd swarmed around a guy who had just walked in to the store, all asking for autographs and photos.
He calmly and politely did as requested, for every last man, woman and child and then carried on with the serious business of browsing and buying records. We had a brief chat across the record racks afterwards. With the carefully styled grey hair, the tan and the sparkling teeth, through the crowd I mistook him for one of the Everly Brothers at first, but when we chatted and I was looking at the many, many of his records in the racks, it was indeed, Marty Stuart. A legendary artist and a very nice chap. Here he tells us “Time Don’t Wait.” With my birthday coming up this month, ain’t that the truth?
Dan + Shay, Brandy Clark, Lee Ann Womack (“Last Call”), the brilliant Dwight Yoakam, Mac McAnally, the hugely popular Florida Georgia Line, the fabulous A Thousand Horses and their hit “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”, gets us to half way through CD two. At cut # 11, we hear the so, so soulful Chris Stapleton and the track that put him brightly in the spotlight, “Tennessee Whiskey,” which is gonna wear out the “replay” button on my CD player.
Our very own The Shires; Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle pop up with “State Lines,” on unlucky for some (but definitely not for them!) track 13. The Shires and sisters Ward Thomas have cracked open the country market for UK acts in the last few years. The door is wide open for more of our home-grown talent to have hit records here and across the world, and be signed to labels in the hallowed home of country; Nashville.
Let me give you good people my tip of who will be next to “make it” from our shores. This group could be even bigger than The Shires and Ward Thomas, in fact. Yep, I said it. Think the UK’s answer to Lady Antebellum crossed with Mumford and Sons. Then forget all about that, as these cool young cats are doing their own thing and not really like anyone else.
A four piece; two girls, two boys. To die-for, four-part harmonies, killer material and multi-instrumentalist skills. Recently signed to Decca, they have been writing and recording their debut album and a couple of recent low key warm up gigs to test out their stuff on small crowds. Playing one of the fringe stages at C2C in London this year; the very same stage where I saw Ward Thomas in 2013, in fact.
They are called The Wandering Hearts and trust me; they will be a big name on the country scene in the next few years. Alt-Country infused Folk-Americana. I predict a Top 10 debut album with the right wind behind them, if the record label does their stuff and national radio get on board.
Tim Prottey-Jones may be familiar to some, from his stints in major West End shows like Rent and Kinky Boots, and from his appearances on the Saturday night prime time TV show where Andrew Loydd Webber searched for the star of the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. Tim has written his own musical and is a very talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer, and this band was his baby. So, remember where you read about them first when you are snapping up their records and concert tickets in the coming years………
Back to this excellent compilation: US talent show winner Carrie Underwood is now a superstar and one of the most successful female artists of any genre of music. Her music sells in the truck load. She was fantastic (and beautiful – the whitest teeth I have ever seen!) when she appeared at the very first C2C in 2013, sharing top billing with LeAnn Rimes. Here Carrie gives us “All-American Girl.”
A new name to many, Canaan Smith’s “Hole In A Bottle” is a track not to miss. Veteran country star and superb guitarist Vince Gill never lets us down, and his cut at track 16, “The Old Lucky Diamond Hotel,” is well worthy of inclusion. The final four of disc two, offer up music from Old Dominion, Jason Aldean, Eric Church and the closer, from Lady Antebellum, “Long Stretch Of Love.”
A very impressive collection of artists and tracks, well worthy of the five stars I have awarded it and I can see this selling out fast at the three C2C events this weekend. Grab a copy while you still can, and I will see you at C2C 2018. Maybe at the front watching, by then; the UK’s newest country stars, The Wandering Hearts. Trust me………………..
By Simon Redley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’