Well the announcement takes time to sink in for some of us, especially when evaluating what it means for the festival which is in it’s eighth year, and what it means for Country music in the UK. The initial reaction from me last night was “oh…I’ve seen all of them before…most of them at a previous C2C” but is this just our spoilt brat phase, isn’t it good that we have artists wanting to return to the UK? In this article we’ll take a look at each artist and what we can expect but first of all lets address the bigger issue… repeat offenders and Country music in the UK!
All day Monday I had my fingers crossed, muttering “Dolly, Kenny, Blake” even though I knew other commitments ruled out Blake Shelton and that Dolly Parton could sell out three nights at the O2 on her own given half the chance, I still had a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, this was Kenny Chesney’s year! It wasn’t. Other artists I half expected like Lee Brice, Tyler Farr and Chris Janson, all of which impressed me at CMA Fest in Nashville this June, were also noticeably absent. There were some repeat offenders I hadn’t seen for a good few years who I thought stood a chance too, the Dixie Chicks are on the verge of making a comeback and Brandy Clark is playing one date as part of Country Music Week and is about to drop an album, what’s her Friday night show about if not to get people ready for a bigger appearance at C2C in March? But they weren’t on the list either. Our headliners instead were Eric Church, who headlined in 2016, Darius Rucker who played in 2013, 2017 and recently toured with Hootie and the Blowfish earlier this year and Luke Combs who played in 2018 and who has toured since then as well. Now these three big names are nothing to snuff at, they are the current big hitters in the genre with the likes of Luke Combs releasing his first six singles in the past three years and getting them all to number 1 on the airplay charts.
Then there is the other issue…females. I’m just jumping on the band wagon here as this has caused a right kerfuffle on social media of late! Yes there is a lack of equality in the genre…the end. However I am going to add a but, because if our main problem here is repeat headliners, which women could headline instead who haven’t headlined before? That aside, throughout the whole line up there is quite a gender gap with a ratio of 9:4 and one of those is a band of women who played the smaller stages last year along with Abby Anderson who is on the main stage as part of the new Introducing Nashville segment of the opening day (for London). Tenille Townes, came over as part of last years Country Music Week and this years which just leaves me with Tanya Tucker. Well all that I can say is wow, good job C2C, you pulled it out the bag! Tanya Tucker is a legend and if you’d have seen me in the torrential rain when she played in Nashville this summer belting out at the top of my voice Delta Dawn with my arms spread eagle you probably would have asked her to stay put so no other members of the audience had to suffer through my singalong again! All jokes aside, a lot of people were disappointed by this line up until they read her name, she saved the weekend! But Tanya Tucker is a legend who should be slightly higher up the bill in my humble opinion.
So, why have we got repeats? Why won’t Kenny and friends come over, have they asked them? Well I’m afraid to hazard a guess that they have on multiple occasions and he’s probably said no. Do they make any money coming to the UK? So if they have asked names like Kenny and Blake and they have said no, does this mean we are likely to get very few new acts in the future as well? Has C2C reached it’s peak and more to the point, has Country Music in the UK reached it’s peak? Or… are we over-analysing and we’re all just spoilt brats still? Well I’m aware I’m asking more questions than I’m answering but I think I may be right with the latter, and I include myself in the spoilt brat syndrome that has swept our nation. A few years ago and these were all new names, or big names that we’d known for a while who’d probably never even heard of the UK let alone visited it! Side note: does anyone remember that episode of Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old with Kellie Pickler where she thinks Europe is a Country and that France is not? I digress… we were so excited and grateful that these artists were coming over for the first time! Now it’s “oh they’re here again” what if these artists stopped coming again? What if ticket sales weren’t good this year and C2C stopped, what would we be left with? Yes other festivals are emerging but nothing on the scale of C2C. The artists it has given us over the years is astounding and the fact year upon year the likes of Old Dominion want to come here to entertain us, despite probably not making a lot of money out of it, is humbling and should be appreciated. If we stop showing up because of excuses like “we’ve seen them before,” then we won’t see them again. One day I hope they’ll go back to the states and persuade the Chris Janson’s, Kenny Chesney’s and even Dolly Parton’s of the World that C2C is their stepping stone, their safety net of testing out the theory that the UK has a market for Country music, a growing one, and if you show up, we’ll show up! So though I am worried for the future of Country Music in the UK, I am more worried that we are our own worst enemy.
So before I share a few tips on the artists let me get to the point for you… whatever you think of the line up this year, let’s appreciate what we’ve got before it’s gone!
Eric Church: Come 2020 and Eric Church’s career will have spanned 15 years, impressive huh? Definitely headline material! With six ACM’s and 3 CMA’s amongst other awards he is well respected amongst his fellow artists and songwriters in the Country music World. He has had 8 number ones on the country airplay chart and has released six studio albums which have all performed reasonably well in the charts. I’ll call it now, if Eric is on the line up, I’ll put money on Luke Laird being at Songwriters this year!
Recommended album: Mr Misunderstood.
Recommended song: Drink in my Hand.
The Cadillac Three: Southern Rock Group The Cadillac Three have toured here a number of times. Slightly too rocky for my taste in Country however they are great entertainers and whatever your taste, worth seeing live! They have had minimal chart success on the Country charts but that’s not the only way of measuring success. Lead singer Jaren Johnston has written singles for Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Jake Owen to name a few, it would be good to hear their take on a few of these.
Recommended album: Bury Me In My Boots
Recommended song: Crackin’ Cold Ones With The Boys
Charles Esten: All I can say is he blew me away live! You can read my review of his most recent concert in Manchester here.
Recommended song: Through the Blue
Abby Anderson: Abby impressed everyone at last years C2C just like I knew she would blowing everyone away at the indigo and getting everyone in the festival/party mood on the satellite stage. Now she’s back on the main stage. Since her last appearance she’s put out a couple of new songs including Good Lord and Flowers.
Recommended album/EP: I’m Good
Recommended song: Flowers
Eric Paslay: He has visited our shores a few times now and is brilliant in a writers round type setting, he is a good bet for CMA Songwriters too as he has written quite a bit for other artists including the Will Hoge/Eli Young Band hit Even If It Breaks Your Heart.
Recommended album: Eric Paslay
Recommended song: Friday Night
Tenille Townes: I am really impressed with Tenille Townes, her storytelling within her songwriting is the most powerful and thought provoking in the genre today. Her vocals are unique and I really think she has the ability to be the next big thing, that is if Country radio gives her half a chance! More artists should be doing what Tenille is doing, writing meaningful, life changing ballads, it’s what Country music is or at least what it was! With a number of Canadian Country music awards under her belt this year, her home country is recognising what a true star is and hopefully we are too!
Recommended album/EP: Living Room Worktapes
Recommended song: Jersey on the Wall
Darius Rucker: Lead vocalist of the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, Darius rose to fame in the 90s releasing five studio albums (and their 6th comes out next week!). He came to Country music in 2006 and has had eight number 1 songs on the Country airplay charts. I can’t wait to hear the crowd singing along to his version of Wagon Wheel.
Recommended album: Southern Style
Recommended song: It Won’t Be Like This For Long
Old Dominion: These boys have so many great Country Pop tunes. A number of the boys write for other artists too, that’s kinda how they got their start as a band. Brad Tursi and Trevor Rosen in particular have had a number of hits with other artists within Country so a longer set than last time would be good to not only hear the music the band has released but to also perhaps hear their take on some of the songs released by others as well. They are no strangers to these shores so I’m sure they’ll know how to please the UK crowd.
Recommended album: Meat and Candy
Recommended song: No Such Thing as a Broken Heart
Runaway June: These girls with their three part harmony really impressed on the smaller stages last year at C2C and I was impressed with them at CMA Fest too where they sung the National Anthem one day to open the main arena events.
Recommended album: Blue Roses
Recommended Song: Buy My Own Drinks
Luke Combs: He is probably the biggest artist in Country music at this present time, his run of number 1’s is quite impressive - six singles, six number 1’s. I’ve tried to dislike this fella, I really have but truth be told, he’s good, he’s better than good, he’s on top of the genre right now and he’s got a new album coming out in a couple of weeks!
Recommended album: This One’s For You
Recommended song: One Number Away
Brett Young: I am quite impressed with Brett Young, I don’t think he gets the hype that he’s owed! Lovely unique vocals and some brilliant well written songs, yes they lean more towards the lovey dovey side of Country but you know, a lot of people like that!His last album was what really got me listening to his music more. I feel like he’s really matured!
Recommended album: Ticket to LA
Recommended song: In Case You Didn’t Know
Tanya Tucker: The End. It’s Tanya Tucker what more explanation do you need? She’s been in this business since she was just 13 years old when she brought out the iconic song Delta Dawn and she’s now 61. Her latest album is certainly a gem but it’s hard to recommend a single album or song as throughout the years she’s released some brilliant music.
Recommended album: While I’m Livin
Recommended song: Bring My Flowers Now
Jordan Davis: Jordan is a relatively new name in the genre, emerging in the last few years but he has had quite a bit of chart success with his first couple of singles reaching 1 and 2 on the Country airplay chart respectively.
Recommended album: Home State
Recommended song: Singles You Up
With the smaller stages to be announced and an artist still missing from the main stage on Saturday night, I think after all the fuss, we are still in for a great weekend! Keep up to date with all the latest news here and be sure to get your tickets Friday 1st November.