Review: The Bluebird Cafe at C2C hits all the right notes

Artists at The Bluebird Cafe at C2C
The Bluebird Cafe’s GM Erika Wollam Nichols (far left) introduced the artists and paid tribute to UK audiences.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to have been to The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville will know it’s a place where magic comes to life.

During C2C Festival weekend, the Bluebird team relocates that special brand of fairy dust across the pond for three intimate singer-songwriter performances under the banner The Bluebird Cafe at C2C.

For early starters, there are the 10am sessions on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but for those of us who like a lie-in (or extra recovery time from the after parties) the Saturday lunchtime slot is often the preferred choice.

Artists taking selfies
Even artists take selfies – Alyssa Bonagura sums up the fun on stage as she snaps her and Catie Offerman.

Our session featured Catie Offerman, Alyssa Bonagura and Drake Milligan and, while it was always going to be a winner, what we couldn’t have anticipated was the sheer enjoyment and sparkling repartee as these three artists shared stories, swopped jokes and generally brought to the stage to life.

Before we get into the songs however, it’s important to namecheck The Bluebird Cafe’s GM Erika Wollam Nichols. As she introduced the artists, she thanked all the C2C audiences for their support, saying: ‘…you people are song people and that is what we are too’ noting that the Bluebird is a safe place to share hearts, souls and emotions.

And that’s exactly what Saturday’s three musicians did – giving us an insight into their lives, loves and break-ups that inspires their songwriting.

From Tennessee girl Alyssa’s seamless slipping into a Liverpool accent – she studied at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and is a regular visitor to these shores; to the never-ending banter between Catie and Drake about that place they’re from…what was it called…I’m sure it began with a T – must have been Texas!

Catie Offerman (above) treated us to tales of heartbreak and Texas…

Indeed, the Lone Star State was one of the stars of the show as Catie treated us to her 2022 single Don’t Do It In Texas, together with I Just Killed A Man – due out next month and yep, you’ve guessed it, they’re heartbreak songs.

With this in mind however, she had the perfect antidote for ‘dating losers’, playing her funniest song of the set Get A Dog, on the basis it ‘saves yourself a little heartbreak’. What’s not to like about the line ‘Call her a bitch, but she’ll still want a bone’ – accompanied by some fabulous mouth organ playing by one of the two backing musicians who joined the artists on stage.

Butterflies and The Beatles – Alyssa Bonagura

Alyssa drops her latest track Jealous tomorrow (March 17) – it’s a fun song that had everyone singing along, so look out for it. We also heard about her obsessions with The Beatles (of course) and butterflies – check out the little beauties pictured on her mic stand – and how they inspired her song New Wings, a stunning number about the power of transformation.

She also treated us to I Make My Own Sunshine, written in Liverpool where it was ‘raining every day’, which not only earned her her first soundtrack for a Lowe’s commercial, but was then recorded by Aerosmith legend Steven Tyler for his own country-styled album.

Alyssa, who sang alongside Ruby Stewart (daughter of Rod) in The Sisterhood Band, and has also had her music cut by the likes of Jessie James Decker and Jana Kramer, will be back in the UK next month (April) supporting Morganway.

Drake Milligan goes acoustic for The Bluebird Cafe at C2C

Drake told us the line-up was a rare opportunity for him these days to play an acoustic session as, more often than not, he’s on stage with his full band. Having seen his hi-energy set on the BBC Radio 2 stage the afternoon before, the two performances couldn’t have been more different, but both are equally valid showcases of this man’s talent.

A self-confessed fan of ‘old-fashioned country and western swing’ Drake namechecked his heroes – among them Merle Haggard, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Keith Whitley – as he talked about his move to Nashville and honing his own songwriting skills in writing rooms.

Amongst the banter and the Texas jokes, a dip into his Dallas/Fort Worth album gave us Save It For A Sunny Day, She and crowd favourite Bad Day To Be A Beer – the result of a fishing trip with his buddy Michael when the beers got cracked open at 8am.

He finished up with Sounds Like Something I’d Do, the song that saw him hit the headlines at auditions for 2022’s America’s Got Talent and earning him the nickname ‘the new Elvis of country’. Along the route to an eventual third place in the grand finale of the TV show, he soon gained a massive fanbase and I suspect we’ll be seeing him back in the UK before too long…

And talking of touring, isn’t it about time that The Bluebird Cafe came on tour to the UK more than once a year??

Photo credits: Craig Dewar and Alison Dewar

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