Country Music 2019: In Review – Alison’s Picks
A great year for gigs with both new and familiar faces and plenty of highlights – I just wish there was more time in the world to listen to music! Enjoy my thoughts on some of the best – Alison
Album of the Year
Austin Jenckes – If You Grew Up Like I Did
Randy Houser’s January 2019 offering Magnolia was a close-run second place, but for my Album of the Year, I’ve chosen Austin Jenckes’ debut If You Grew up Like I Did. Its striking honesty, simplicity and string of personal stories makes it a ‘go to’ for some serious listening.
Song of the Year
Randy Houser – No Stone Unturned
The whole album might not have made the number one slot for the album category but No Stone Unturned from Randy Houser’s Magnolia is my Song of the Year. Just love the rhythm and beat and the line “No Stone Unturned/No Turn Unstoned”. Beautiful.
Favourite Live Show
Another tough call as 2019 gigs were many and varied. Josh Turner at Union Chapel has to be up there as one of the best – the amazing acoustics showcasing his incredible voice – and it was great to be at 229 The Venue for A Thousand Horses’ special one-off gig. Austin Jenckes on The Front Porch at The Long Road came pretty close too, who wouldn’t want to be sitting there in the twilight listening to one man and his guitar on such a fabulous evening. For sheer entertainment and engagement factor though, Scotty McCreery was the winner. The whole time he was on stage, Scotty just didn’t stop and by now there must be very few people who haven’t heard about the ‘Max Lewis’ moment, when he invited mega fan Max on stage to sing I Love You This Big. Full marks for a man who is prepared to put his heart on his sleeve and give the crowd what they really want.
Best UK Festival
The Long Road
It has to be The Long Road. C2C had plenty of mega moments for me (especially Lyle Lovett, Ashley McBryde amongst others) but for sheer laid-back enjoyment and fresh air in a stunning setting, TLR took the biscuit – or should I say the churros, which were just heavenly. I appreciated the fact the organisers had listened to feedback from year one regarding the size and location of The Interstate, plus the VIP area was much more worthy of its name – even if there were still plenty of people hogging the comfy chairs. The Honky Tonk was a squeeze as before (not sure if making it bigger would spoil its atmosphere) but overall, you could get to see the artists you wanted without long queues – Indigo at O2 take note. Just a shout out too, to Dixie Fields’ inaugural year – a great start by Georgie Thorogood and her team and look forward to seeing how this fledgling festival develops.
Best Newly Discovered Artist
Travis Denning / Jackson Michelson
Having been pretty much a lifelong country music fan, thanks to my fellow Six Shooter writers, this year I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to a number of ‘new’ artists who I was unfamiliar with (shame on me, I know) – Cody Jinks, Mike and the Moonpies and Mitchell Tenpenny among them. In making my final choice however, it was the very engaging and humorous Travis Denning – heard for the first time at Songwriters 2019 – who shares my number one newbie slot with Jackson Michelson, who wowed the crowd at Dixie Fields and will hopefully be welcomed back before too long. I’ll never forget the Bud Light Shine song for the way I heard it 😊
Most Memorable Moment
Drake White Firestarter Family Gathering
Hosting the first Drake White UK Firestarter Family gathering at C2C – seeing Drake walk up the stairs at The Slug and Lettuce pub and be happy to chat, sign autographs, take photos and generally enjoy time with his fans was truly a special moment. That and the fact my hubby arranged a happy birthday video message for me from the man himself last summer – brownie points all round.
Michael Ray @ Bush Hall
Always a tough one to call. No-one wants to be disappointed with a gig, but I’d say it was Michael Ray at Bush Hall, London. He seemed to promise so much but the lateness of the hour on stage didn’t help and I just didn’t ‘get him’ in the way I had hoped. Maybe next time will change my mind…
Hope for 2020…
My wish for 2020 is that after a tough year, my favourite artist Drake White will continue his recovery to full health, make new music and finally return to the stage where he belongs. There are plenty of Firestarters waiting for that spark to burn as brightly as ever when the time is right.