Tuesday, 6 April 2021

TRAVEL: Australia Bucket List (Western Australia)

I can’t wait to get back to Australia to head off on more adventures like these:

Exploring Noosa National Park

Soaking up the sun in Airlie Beach

Riding choppers in 1770 and Agnes Water

Spotting wild koalas on Magnetic Island

Getting close and personal with creepy crawlies in the Daintree

But in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for planning the trips I’ll take when I do! Thanks to everyone who joined me for my initial Australian bucket list (if you haven’t read that yet, you can find it here!) but there’s still a whole chunk of the country I didn’t have time to mention. Occupying almost a third of Australia’s land mass, Western Australia is the country’s largest state, which means there’s bound to be a hell of a lot of exciting places to visit there. Read on for my top picks!


Described as ‘Australia’s hidden gem’, Broome sounds like somewhere quite unlike anywhere else in the rest of the country. Far away from the hustle and bustle of any cities – with the nearest cities, Darwin and Perth, both over 2,000km away – I like the idea that Broome might just be the place to go to get away from it all, and no better place to do that than at one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, Cable Beach. Between sunbathing on its white sandy shores by day, or riding along it atop a native camel by night, I’m pretty sure I could spend my whole time in Broome without leaving that one spot, but there’s even more to see, including red cliffs and dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point, the stunning Horizontal Falls, and plenty of other untouched areas across the Dampier Peninsula and Kimberley Region. Why can’t I be there already?


Two words: whale sharks. If you read the last entry of my Australian bucket list, you’ll know I have big plans to do Down Under’s best dives, and have already dived the Great Barrier Reef. As such, I will most certainly be making my way to Exmouth. Located along the Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth is home to one of the longest fringing reefs on the planet, and one of the few places that you can get up close and personal with whale sharks. So cool! And when your hands have turned wrinkly from the water, there’s a great opportunity to hop out and explore Cape Range National Park with its gorgeous canyons and habitats for 630 species of plants and wildflowers, along with heaps of wildlife like wallaroos, echidnas, and emus.


Rottnest Island

This place might just be top of my Aussie bucket list, and for good reason. Quokkas. Rottnest is home to a whole herd of this ridiculously adorable animal, so you’d bet I’ll be making a special trip just to see them. Just look at them! And when I’m not fawning over these little angels, the island gives me the perfect opportunity to test out the cycling skills I’ve gained from a year living in the Netherlands (read about my experiences here) as Rottnest is perhaps Australia’s most bike-friendly location. As such, it’s the perfect place  to cruise around for the day, checking out its 60 beaches and bays, snorkelling and swimming in the turquoise sea, and visiting Wadjemup Lighthouse for some spectacular views.


Margaret River

I won’t lie to you – the minute I read that Margaret River has chocolate makers, cheese factors, gourmet food, wineries, and breweries galore, I was sold. Whilst I wouldn’t class it as one of my main personality traits, I do really like good food (probably one of the reasons I fell in love with Melbourne so much) so I honestly would probably go to Margaret River just to do some food tours. But wait, there’s so much more! Margaret River has plenty of natural beauty too, including being world renowned for its caves, full of mirror reflections and stalactites. Apparently you can go caving in them too, although whether I’d be able to squeeze through after the amount of food I’m planning to eat there is another story…



Darwin, check. Cairns, check. Brisbane, check. Sydney, check. Canberra, check. Melbourne, check. Adelaide, (half) check (darn you Covid, for cutting my trip short!) Anyway, my point is, I’ve had the privilege of seeing what I would consider most of Australia’s main cities, bar one – Perth. Well, I say city, but I’ve heard that Perth is actually more like a big country town, which might be good to readjust myself after being away from cities for so long! I’ve read that highlights include Kings Park which, bigger than New York’s Central Park, is home to a huge number of native plants, fungi, and bird species; almost twenty of Australia’s most beautiful beaches; heaps of culture and heritage; stunning sunsets; and a launch pad for places like Fremantle and Rottnest Island. Now just to get back to Australia as soon as I can! 

I just know this list will keep growing and growing the more I learn about Australia! What places have or would you like to visit in Australia (or indeed the world!)? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @CiarasCountry. Stay tuned for plenty more travel content coming soon to this blog... thanks so much for reading! 

Friday, 26 March 2021

Best of Music: March 2021

*check out my last music round-up here!*

We made it to March! That means one step closer to pitching my camping chair in the back garden, book in one hand, ice cold drink in the other, speakers loud to educate the neighbours on some great music. I have no doubt that many of the songs I listened to in March will be some of the once blaring across the neighbourhood, as it’s been yet another great month for music. Fancy checking out all the songs I loved this month? Find them here https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4MVlluoVLpNpwKPHDkhqDM?si=0894dfda9e424a46 Just want the best of the best? You’re in the right place. Read on! 


Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ – Lainey Wilson

I’m quite astonished that the first time I saw Lainey Wilson live was over two years ago (read about that here), and yet she’s only just released her debut album. However, it was most definitely worth the wait, with some really brilliant tracks on it – and if my recommendation doesn’t convince you enough, maybe the way Lainey describes her music will, as ‘bell bottom country’, aka country with a flare. Love it!. My favourite song on the album has to be the title track Sayin What I’m Thinking, because I think the chorus lyrics pretty much sum up how my life has been during quarantine: ‘I’ve been drivin’, I’ve been cryin’, but I swear I ain’t been drinkin’, Even I can’t believe I’m sayin’ what I’m thinkin’’. It’s an ode to honesty and not hiding from the truth when that’s what you need to hear, and this is a song you definitely need to hear. 



One Step Ahead – Reckless Road

I thought I’d heard the last of Reckless Road back in 2014, when band member Colton Pack announced that he was leaving the band, shortly after they had finished fourth on the prior season of American Idol. I’ve followed the members on Instagram since, but thought they’d pretty much returned to ‘normal life’, picking up regular jobs and maybe letting their music dreams go. Thank goodness that this was not the case, as we never would have got this absolute banger of a song had that happened. Pack rejoined the band in 2019, and this is the first song they’ve released that has made me think ‘you know what, these guys could be really big’. It’s a really fun song full of enjoyable lyrics like the chorus: ‘if you want a cab girl, I already called it; if you want a slow dance throwback love song made for falling, I’m on it; if you need your kisses to last a little longer; if you need your heartbeat to beat a little stronger; don’t worry that pretty little mind I’ve already read it; yeah baby, I’m one step ahead’. I can’t wait to see what these three come out with next. 



Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home) – Elle King ft Miranda Lambert

Probably the song that I’ve been blasting the most over the past month. Admittedly, it was a song that on first listen, I brushed over, but man, it’s a song that gets under your skin; so if it doesn’t seem like your kind of song on first listen, give it another try and let me know what you think. I’m calling it, this is the summer anthem you should be listening to, all about celebrating those nights out that we’ve all been desperately craving – spending time with your friends, getting a little crazy, and never wanting to go home. It’s also a feat of musicality, with two of the most unique voices in the industry teaming together to create something magical. Elle and Miranda’s tonalities work so well together, and yet don’t have to fight with one another, but allowed to shine well and truly on this song. 



Pretty Places – Aly & AJ

I am inclined to believe that anything these two touch turns to gold. Three of the best songs I’ve heard in the past year (and quite possibly my life) have been Aly & AJ songs – Take Me, Slow Dancing, and now Pretty Places. I don’t know what they put in their water, but I think I need some too. And that’s just recent Aly & AJ too, but if you listen to some of their older tracks like Chemicals React and Like Whoa, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is not something new for the duo. Pretty Places is a fever trip of insane melody, beautiful vocals, and lyrics that just make me scream ‘I wish that were my life!’ Honestly, I want to post the whole lyrics so you can see what I mean, but please just do yourself (and me) a favour and listen to this song, because I really don’t think my words can do it justice.




Hold On – Justin Bieber

Speaking of Justice, hello Justin Bieber’s new album! Like Aly & AJ, Justin has been a staple in my musical library since my teens. I’ll be the first to say that for me he’s been a bit hit or miss in recent years, but Hold On thankfully brings us back to the ‘hit’ side of things. It’s full of the JB we love – good beat, catchy lyrics, those vocals that hold us down and bring us up, and a maturity that comes with being in the industry as long as he has. It feels a little bit like the return of the Justin that I’ve been waiting to come back for a while – I’ve loved watching him grow from One Time and think we might well be entering the new era of Bieber fever. 


Need To Not – Jordan Davis

When an artist keeps appearing on your playlists time and time again, it might be a sign that they are definitely one to watch. Jordan Davis has been a staple on a fair few of my playlists over the past year with songs like Lose You, Slow Dance In A Parking Lot, and Cool Anymore, and it’s already time to add a new one with Need To Not. You know I like a song that gives some good advice, and this song reminds us that sometimes we need to convince ourselves to ‘go back home, turn on that TV, stare at the wall and just sleep alone’ before we get ourselves back somewhere we don’t want to be. It’s a catchy song with really good vocals, and I just know Jordan will be filling up festival line-ups over the next few years, so might as well learn the lyrics to all his great songs now!



Yours Or Mine – Joey Hendricks

Another newcomer for this month, Joey Hendricks’s Yours or Mine is a song that depicts a relationship’s early days, when you realise that a simple hang-out has blossomed into something much more. I love how this song evokes that feeling of butterflies when thinking back to those first moments of moving from friendship into something else. Just take a look at the lyrics: ‘Whose arms gonna wrap around who? Whose place are we headed back to? Somebody’s lips gotta be the first to cross that line. Who says only fools rush in? Whose bed are we waking up in? Whose heart will take it harder when we say goodbye? Yours or mine?’ It’s a song that’s going to be stuck in your head all week long.


Countryside – Florida Georgia Line

It would be against my nature to talk about my favourite music and not mention Florida Georgia Line. They’ve basically raised me in country music, and new album Life Rolls On is a pretty good addition to their discography. There’s loads of songs on it that I really like – highlight Tyler’s vocals and the duo’s feel-good vibe – like Long Live, Hard to Get to Heaven, Second Guessing, and the title track, but if I had to choose, my top song would be Countryside. It goes down so smooth, and if it has a city girl like me feeling convinced to move to the countryside, must be pretty powerful. Think along the lines of Niko Moon’s Good Time – this is the exact same feeling that a song like this evokes. 



Nothing gets me more excited that new music, and I can tell you I’ve already started working on my April playlist! If you want to check out everything I’m listening to, my Spotify can be found here, https://open.spotify.com/user/mtutrbufty0z7aw39fcf8j0tn?si=7427b0a1b3e84d03 I also love knowing what you’re listening to, so drop me a message on Twitter @CiarasCountry, and you can also join me ever Friday GMT 5-8pm on www.ukcountryradio.com for three hours of country music gold! Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, 24 March 2021



Looking for Part 1? Find it here for reviews of Caylee Hammack, Noah Schnacky, Charles Esten, Filmore, Kassi Ashton, Brett Young, and Lindsay Ell 

All photos are my own! 


Jimmie Allen will always hold a special place in my heart, being kind enough to record a lovely video message for a friend of mine a few years ago who couldn’t attend his concert. A nice bloke who can sing? Say no more. You just know you’re going to have a good time with Jimmie, and Berlin 2020 was no different, as he swaggered on stage in cowboy hat and long black coat, complete with a big gold medallion for good measure. We heard three of Jimmie’s hits on the livestream, starting off with Make Me Want To - ‘it might be too soon to say I love you, but you’re gonna make me want to’. As Jimmie called out to the crowd, ‘Berlin, how y’all doing out there tonight, baby?’ (only Jimmie Allen can call an entire city ‘baby’), I found myself getting caught up in it, even from home, and it was at this point that I started really wishing that I was there to get caught up in the atmosphere. Not only were Jimmie’s upbeat songs creating a great atmosphere, but he was too, having a good time and spinning around the stage.

He continued with the very nice country love song Best Shot, with the band taking a minute to cut all music and just let Jimmie’s voice shine, getting everyone to put their phone lights up as he sang, ‘I’m not saying that I’m perfect, cause girl you know I’m not, but I’ll love you with everything I’ve got, I’ll give you my best shot’. Jimmie finished with Underdogs, coming into the crowd to finish the song and really proving my point that half of the reason for going to gigs is to interact with the artist, with no-one showing why better than Jimmie Allen. I really want him to succeed.

I can’t say I have much to comment on the next artist Willie Jones, as he just wasn’t my cup of tea (but I sure would be some peoples) – he sang the country/hip-hop infused Back Porch, which whilst not necessarily my style, again highlights well that country is whatever we want it to be – pop, rock, hip-hop, you name it. 


Time for big act number two next, Darius Rucker, who played everyone’s favourite song Wagon Wheel, which you know, love, and can’t help but sing along to from the very first chord. Darius is such a nice guy (need more proof – check out my interview with him here), and you could really see this on stage as the crowd sang along to every word, highlighting that Darius’s music really is universal. I couldn’t wait to see what other songs we’d hear on the livestream, until the screen changed to the next artist. Excuse me, C2C organisers? You highlight Darius Rucker as one of the three main acts on your livestream, and you’re going to play just one of his songs? Some of the Spotlight artists got even more than that! Get your act together. I was very much enjoying the Berlin highlights show, but honestly, that was such a big let-down I didn’t think I’d recover.

As if to prove my point, the next artist was someone I hadn’t yet heard of, Austin Jenckes, and yet we saw three of his songs versus Darius’s one. Hear me out, I am absolutely not complaining (well, I am about Darius’s lack of songs, but not about hearing three of Austin’s), as Austin was a revelation. He has a phenomenal voice that is a must for any fans of Chris Stapleton and Luke Combs, and shone on his songs Ride Away and If You’d Been Around. After watching the show, I listened to his recorded songs, and don’t say this often, but think he sounds even better live than on record. That last song, If You’d Been Around, was not only full of powerful vocals, but also deep emotion and storytelling with just him and a guitar, but he really didn’t need anything more.

However, nothing could have prepared me for the last song we’d hear from Austin, a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. I simply wrote in my review notes ‘Yay!’ because it was such a joy to hear, and I don’t think I’d ever heard a male cover of the song before. This was really special, and my highlight of the night so far as his voice completely filled the arena. Austin Jenckes, you’re my one to watch. 


I don’t think I could’ve been happier with the next section either. Aptly titled Introducing Nashville, it was a trio made up of Eric Paslay, Tenille Townes, and Abby Anderson. Like a little storyteller’s circle, the three introduced each other, starting with Abby introducing Tenille to the crowd by saying ‘y’all are about to hear a tornado come out of this girl’s mouth’. She wasn’t wrong, as Tenille launched into Where You Are, singing ‘I’d stand in any ticket line, any mountain I would climb, just to find my way to where you are’. I was enjoying it so much, that one song in and I was already downloading Tenille’s album The Lemonade Stand onto my phone. 


Tenille followed by introducing Eric with ‘you guys already know who this guy is – he’s one of the kindest and more respected songwriters in Nashville’. I don’t think I’ve ever met Eric, but I know that I agree with Tenille – he has a reputation for being such a nice guy, and also one who writes great music, including the fun Friday Night that he played for us then. 


Next we had the super excited and nervous Abby Anderson, who joked around with the crowd before introducing song Make Him Wait. She explained that she comes from a family of six girls, and it was really important to her parents that they taught all the girls what they’re worth, and so this song was a ‘big shout out to all the ladies in the room, and bigger shout out to all the studs in the room who treat their ladies right’. I think Make Him Wait is a feat of songwriting and really should have been a much bigger hit. As she began to play the keyboard, Abby’s nerves disappeared, her confidence shooting up the moment she started singing. She has a beautiful and soulful voice, and I’d really recommend her to anyone and everyone.

I would definitely also recommend Tenille who said ‘I think I’m gonna stand for this next one, but I’m not much taller when I stand’. She might be pint-sized, but she is a powerhouse, and proved this on Somebody’s Daughter, which tells the story of Tenille seeing a girl holding a sign on the side of the road and wondering what her story was. I really like hearing the inspiration behind songs – again, another great reason to go to gigs rather than just listen to albums and the like. This song was made even lovelier with Abby harmonising in the background – I like artists supporting artists, and think these two make a great team.

The Introducing Nashville section finished with Eric stating ‘if you’re hearts on the edge of breaking, hopefully this one will give you a clean break and help you move on with your life’ – say it louder for the ones in the back! He played She Don’t Love You, a lift your lights up song that was hugely different from Friday Night, and really highlighted that he is not an artist who pigeonholes himself into just party songs or ballads. What a writer, and a really enjoyable part of the show.

We had another Tenille up next, this time Tenille Arts, who started with her song Everybody Knows Everybody. Lyrics like ‘you can’t break up, make up, or make out without everyone knowing’ made me nostalgic for the small town life I never had, and I really liked Tenille’s tonality and range that allowed her to hit the high notes and low notes alike. She then played a song I’d heard before - Somebody Like That – a track not settling until you find someone good enough. Like Austin Jenckes, she sounded incredible live and there were honestly no faults in her performance – definitely another one to watch.

If Lindsay Ell was country’s rocker chick, The Cadillac Three are 100% country’s rocker boys. Their part of the show started with a backing video of three skeletons riding in a convertible before the band themselves came onto the stage raising their beers in the air. I think the trio might have got the highest number of songs in the livestream (I’m still mad they only gave Darius one), as they sang four songs - Hard Out Here For A Country Boy, Slow Rollin, White Lightning and The South. Each song was full of edge, heavy guitars, and rock galore.

Honestly, I think this was a set better viewed from home, and I could only imagine how overpowering the drum and bass would have been in person, given that I could barely hear the vocals from my computer speakers. The Cadillac Three are certainly unique in the genre, and I think were probably needed for the nights events – you can hardly go home without a few party anthems thrown in, can you? They represent country for the outlaws, the rulebreakers, and those who just want to have a good time.

I’ll admit I got a bit confused about the next artist, Kyle Daniel, as we had two performers up on the Spotlight stage. Is Kyle Daniel two people? Was it supposed to say Kyle & Daniel? My research afterwards showed that Kyle Daniel is in fact just one person, but whoever he was joined with also did a great job. Kyle Daniel (and friend) performed God Bless America (Damn Rock N Roll), and think if you’re a fan of Fairground Saints, you’ll like Kyle Daniel too.


Time for the final act of the night, and I was kind of hoping that Luke Combs would get a few more songs than Darius Rucker did. Thankfully, such as the case, and he started off with She Got The Best Of Me, sounding exactly as he does on his records. Watching from home gave me a bit more time to dissect the lyrics, and listening to this song made me realise that it’s actually pretty sad, but whether you’d think that just listening to the melody is another story.

We had very much the opposite for the next song, which Luke started off by saying ‘everybody knows that feeling you get when you meet somebody you think might be more than somebody you just met somewhere’. Such was the case with his then-to-be wife, who inspired the next song he played for us, Beautiful Crazy. This was well done, with the gorgeous wedding song style lyrics matched perfectly with beautiful starry night visuals behind Luke.

Luke introduced Hurricane as the song that changed his life in a whole lot of ways, and it made me realise that all Luke has to do is write a song about bad weather to have a hit – Hurricane, When It Rains It Pours? Actually, scratch that – all Luke has to do is write a song to have a hit. You can see he is a man who loves his music, as he closes his eyes and feels the music, letting those powerful vocals that we all know and love do the talking. Luke is a powerhouse and a great choice for any festival anywhere – I just can’t wait to get back and see amazing artists like him soon enough. 

I hope you enjoyed my review of the highlights from C2C Berlin! Any artists you would have particularly loved to see? Let me know on Twitter @CiarasCountry, where you can also stay up to date on all the latest music news, whatever I'm listening to at the moment, and of course any more gig and festival reviews! You'll also find me every Friday from 5-8pm on www.ukcountryradio.com - hope you can join me there - thanks so much for reading!

Monday, 22 March 2021



Concerts are one major thing I know many of us have missed this past year – I mean, look at me – half of my blog is based around attending, reviewing, and interviewing at concerts! Aside from that, there’s nothing quite like the buzz you get being around thousands of people who share the same passion as you, in the same room as your favourite artists, singing the words to the songs you’ve heard on repeat over and over again. I’d say it’ll still be a while until I get back to any gigs or festivals, but thanks to technology, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them from home.

C2C Country 2 Country 2020 was the first of its kind that I had missed since its inauguration in 2013 (and you can find countless blog posts about C2C’s over the years right here – just search C2C in the search bar on your right), because I was in Australia checking out its counterpart (read about that here). However, lucky for me, the folks at Country 2 Country were kind enough to record some of the highlights from Berlin 2020 and share them with us over Facebook live, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you now, just like we were at C2C 2020 together! I've included some photos from the last times I saw these artists too.

The first thing that I’ll say is that I was impressed with the length of the event – about two and a half hours of non-stop music, and super helpfully for me as a reviewer, with the artist and song title labelled in the corner of the screen.

The first artist we had was red-headed country singer Caylee Hammack, who started by saying ‘Do I have any redheads in the house?’ (I cheered from home) before launching into her fun song Redhead, full of lyrics I’m sure my parents would agree with – ‘they got their hands full tryna tame a pistol’, and ‘raised a little hell when they raised a little redhead’.

Just like that song, it was obvious that Caylee herself was full of fun, as the next song we saw started with her strapping a tiny children’s xylophone under her arm. ‘This is for any boy who your Momma warned you about and you still dated,’ she started off by saying, and I’ll admit that I was expecting another foot-stomper so was pretty surprised when it started off as a stripped back ballad. However, before too long, Just Friends kicked up a notch into the powerful song I recognised from some of my Spotify recommended playlists with some of the best advice I’ve heard: ‘I shoulda listened to my momma and we shoulda stayed just friends’.



The next artist was no stranger to me - Noah Schnacky, who I’d had the pleasure of interviewing at CMC Rocks (check that interview out here). Immediately, Noah’s charisma was clear to see, from the way he dressed, in a laid-back outfit of jeans, backwards baseball cap, and a sweatshirt with his surname on the back; to the confidence in his voice as he kicked off with Hello Beautiful, a song I could practically feel the girls in the audience falling in love with.

I particularly enjoyed his cover of Thomas Rhett’s Make Me Wanna, where he added a little country twang into his vocals. His band had done a great job of adapting the song to make it different enough to be Noah’s own, and yet familiar enough so that it was recognisable to country songs. A great choice for a show like C2C, as not only did it show off his voice and guitar skills, but also pulled in anyone who maybe didn’t know Noah before, but certainly would know Thomas. The last song of his we heard on the livestream was Noah’s first radio single, I’ll Be The One, with cutesy lyrics like ‘I’ll be the one that got the one that got away’. Noah really looked like he was having fun at this point, pulling off his sweater and giving it to a lucky girl in the front row. Overall, if you’re looking for something halfway between country and a boy band, Noah’s certainly the one for you.

I will rave about Aussie duo Seaforth until the day I die, so I was really pleased to see they were included in the C2C highlights, if only for one song. They introduced their song Talk To Me by saying it was one they wrote about girls with Southern accents ‘but since we’re here, it’s about girls with German accents’. These kings of harmony blessed us with three minutes of enjoyment, and I think a line in their song encapsulates well how I feel about Seaforth - ‘it don’t matter what you’re saying, you know it all sounds good’.


You might be forgiven for thinking Hugh Jackman was the next artist on stage as Charles Esten began with his easy listening Sweet Summer Saturday Night. With his deep voice and sultry talk singing, I thought this was exactly the kind of song you listen to at a beach festival – aka exactly where I’d rather be right now. As he moved on to She Don’t Love Me with an intense guitar solo from Charles at the beginning, it was astonishing how much he seemed to me to epitomise his character Deacon from the show where he got his country start – ABC’s Nashville – and I found myself wondering whether the character of Deacon was based on Charles, or whether Charles had based his country persona that we were now seeing on the stage on Deacon.

Charles’s section of the show finished with the fun and playful He Ain’t Me - ‘he might be all that, but honey, he ain’t me’ – culminating with Charles doing a proper rockstar jump off the higher section of the stage at the end. He’s likeable and fun, and made an enjoyable addition to the show.

Next up was Kassi Ashton, who started off by introducing the song that got her her publishing deal, Pretty Shiny Things. The song itself was pleasant – a powerful ballad about being valued for your looks over anything else, but personally, Kassi’s voice wasn’t for me. Having heard her speak just moments before, I was a tad disappointed by the, in my opinion, overly ‘indie’ tone that she sang with that I find a great deal of artists nowadays tend to add to their vocals. Perhaps that is Kassi’s natural singing voice, who knows, and if indie’s your thing, she might be for you. 


It was the first ‘big name act’ that we had next, Brett Young, looking like bro-country personified in his camo tee and jeans. The first song we saw was 1,2,3 Mississippi, in which Brett paced across the stage to make sure he gives attention to everyone. This continued in Here Tonight, where he did his best to get the audience to engage with him – pointing and asking them to sing with him, a move I’m always impressed that artists do at festivals where a fair few people might not know their songs.

I like Brett's voice with its raspy undertone, and enjoyed many of the lyrics in Here Tonight, including the adorable ‘if ever I get lost in your eyes tonight, please just let me stay a little bit longer’. Nowhere were the lyrics more enjoyable than in made-for-the-radio track Catch, where Brett sang of all the things he thought he’d be catching – a buzz, up with the boys, a cab; and now he’s trying to catch her eye, her name and catch his breath. Clever.

If Brett looked like what you think when you think ‘country’, Filmore certainly didn’t. Complete with manbun and hipster clothing, Filmore is a far cry from the cowboy hats and flannel we’re used to, but I think does a good job at highlighting how country is always changing, and there isn’t really ‘one style’ of country after all – I find this all the time, hosting a country-pop radio station (Friday’s GMT 5-8pm on www.ukcountryradio.com, if you’re interested), and people expecting me to either be playing just Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash on repeat, or songs about trucks and girls in cut-off jeans…

Long story short, it’s this embrace of country not being what it used to be that I think Filmore does well. We heard three song from him - Love That About You; a song ‘about being in love, I guess’ called Other Girl, and finally Slower. Of the three, my favourite was Other Girl, a cute track that you can just imagine him serenading to someone special with its lyrics like ‘I don’t need no other girl, cause when it’s right, it’s right’, but perhaps what impressed me most about Filmore was his ability to hold the audience with just his voice and a guitar – no backing musicians, no visuals – not an easy feat, but just goes to show that a good voice, good lyrics, and good personality go a long way. 


Another artist who blurs the boundary as to ‘what is country’ is Lindsay Ell, the bluesy-rock-country-chick that I really don’t think has any competition for her niche in the genre at the moment – there really is no one else in country who does that style as well as Lindsay. I remember being enthralled one of the last times I saw her by her beautiful guitar (check that review out here), and she certainly didn’t disappoint in Berlin, with a gorgeous guitar with painted flowers and gold glitter – I’ll take one, please. It certainly wasn’t just for show too, as she punctuated all of the songs we heard with awesome guitar, highlighting the major benefit of attending concerts rather than just listening to the record – artists can really go to town on their instrumentals in a way that a three-minute track just wouldn’t allow you to.

The first song we heard was I Don’t Love You, full of power as it hit the chorus, with Lindsay pouring her heart and soul into those notes. What was amazing was that I could tell that she wasn’t even giving it her all, and you could hear the power in her voice that she was holding back, eventually letting loose at the bridge as the band pulled back to let her show off those amazing vocals. She continued with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed Delivered. Like Noah’s cover of Make Me Wanna, Lindsay had completely changed this song to make it hers, in a way that allowed her to make the most of her insane guitar skills as we saw her battle with her keyboard player, before making her way to the front of the stage to play the guitar lying flat on her back.

You could tell what her final song was going to be from the sirens playing over the speakers at the beginning. Criminal is definitely from the rockier side of her catalogue, but honestly I think Lindsay could basically choose whatever genre she wants to be in. Certainly if you’re a fan of country-rock, I can’t think of a better artist. 

And that's just half of it! There was simply so much to cover, so I'll be posting Part 2 very shortly. Stay tuned, and let me know what artists you loved from today's review by contacting me on Twitter @CiarasCountry - thanks so much for reading!