These days, UK country and Americana acts are being booked all over the shop (and members’ clubs and cafés) to play in front of crowds that aren’t really paying attention. We’ve got to hope those gigs pay well because it must be demoralising to be talked over when you’re giving it your all.
Cue an industry-only showcase at Ticketmaster – where you could reasonably expect a level of background chatter – and was pin drop quiet. High fives (and stage dives) all round. OK, no stage dives, but there was a slide. More on that later! With an event like this for music bigwigs and writers, it would be easy to pack it with identikit American starlets. Kudos to the curator for showcasing local talent at a rate of two of our best to one American.
“I guess my fans are here!”
UK Americana/country industry folks tend to know the artists well, so Megan O’Neill had them hanging on and singing along. She started out with Half Of Myself, and anyone not already familiar got a crash course in her incredible voice.
Next, O’Neill played Don’t You, which had featured in the TV show, Nashville. Impressed nods and smiles all round, both from that fact and then from the powerhouse vocals underpinning the song.
Her final song was Ireland, for which she switched to the guitar. Although out of her comfort zone instrumentally, lyrically; it was truly evocative – from and about a place of love. Jimmie Allen listened intently and was suitably impressed: “You can’t write a song like that about America!”
Megan O’Neill is hard at work recording her new album. Until then, check out her most recent release, Ghost Of You.
“I’m gonna stand up because my jeans are too small to sit down. Oh, I can feel my legs!”
Before showcasing his music, which was busy racing up the U.S. country charts back home, Jimmie Allen showcased his dry wit.
Allen was refreshingly open about the unlikeliness of his success. True, he doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a star in the today’s sea of identikit country bros. He mentioned his Delaware origins and race as not matching the majority of those from (or, more likely, who pretend to be from) Nashville. Yet despite that – or because of it – he’s a deserved breakthrough artist.
His topics and titles seem familiar – Blue Jean Baby, Country Lines – but bro country isn’t usually cut with Blackstreet references, that’s for sure!
Allen closed out with his rising hit, Best Shot. There was palpable excitement in this room of hardened music journos; all phones out to film or dancing in the aisles! Consensus: this guy’s going places, fast.
Allen recently made history as the first black artist to launch a career with a number 1 at Country radio in the U.S. Surely you’ll be seeing him at a future C2C festival, but until then you can keep up with him at jimmieallenmusic.com.
“We just want teabags and honey”
Although Allen was the headline grabbing artist, one of the most gratifying parts of the night was the relationship between the home team, Laura Oakes and Megan O’Neill, who have played on plenty (but not enough) rounds together. They beautifully harmonised on each other’s songs, as well as agreeing on the ideal backstage rider.
Whenever you see Oakes, it’s worth watching someone who hasn’t heard her sing before. Cartoon-style jaw dropping *will* occur! The timbre of her voice is really something special.
Despite being a mainstay of the UK country scene, Oakes’ first song spoke to the pull of the home of country music. Nashville Stole Your Girl recounted “a more dramatic version of events” inspired by a visit aged 17.
Oakes was pensive when introducing Old Ghosts, about needing to deal with things that were supposed to settled but keep rising to haunt your thoughts.
For her final song, Oakes took a common country topic that Allen had covered earlier in the evening. Better In Blue Jeans was a cut-above the bro country cut-off jeans stereotype though. Clever wordplay and a compelling smoky vocal style really sold the song: “that black tie’s just a white lie that’s never gonna work on me/I liked you better in blue jeans.”
You can catch Laura Oakes hosting her own songwriters’ round at The Green Note. The next one is January 8 with Katy Hurt and Frankie Davies. Not to be missed! Tickets: https://www.greennote.co.uk/production/laura-oakes-hosts/
All too soon, the music was over, but the fun wasn’t! The rider turned out to be more alcoholic than tea and honey, and Allen was willing to share! Decency* prevents me from posting the photo of O’Neill’s reaction after taking the shot.
*the fact that she would kill me…
After that, it was inevitable that Megan was going to try out the slide…
….closely followed by Kaity Rae!
You may have spotted that Rae wasn’t on the line-up (next time, Ticketmaster??) but she made herself useful by tending the free bar!
Can’t wait for Ticketmaster’s next country/Americana showcase. Save me a front row sofa!