By Ian Aspinall

 

Tuesday October 12th saw the last Nashville Meets London of 2021, hosted, as ever, by Absolute Radio DJ extraordinaire Matt Spracklen. Pizza Express Live in Holborn was the venue once again, and the lighting for photography purposes was ever the same – terrible. There was a slight change to the line-up as Country Lowdown favourite Gary Quinn, who was due to headline, contracted laryngitis and was, unsurprisingly, unable to perform. So, Eddy Smith of Eddy Smith & the 507 filled the gap, with Katee Kross jumping into the headline slot. Our best wishes go out to Gary and we’re all hopeful of a speedy recovery.

 

Prior to the music starting Matt played tribute to Buck n Bull founder and the driving force behind the Southern Fridays and Saturdays nights, the NML boat parties, and Long Road after parties, Max, who sadly passed away last month. RIP Maxwell Thompson – the UK country night out scene will be the poorer without your presence.

 

But for now, the music must go on, and the night was started by Kelsey Bovey accompanied by Danny McMahon. And what a start it was! Kelsey was new to me as a live performer but I had heard good things from friends and I was not disappointed. The set kicked off with Vinyl which is set to be the next single – keep an eye out for the pre-save coming soon as it is well worth a listen. 30% Spirit followed; this has been championed by Matt on the radio and is a beautiful track about mixing emotions with alcohol – oft a dangerous course of action. I Found Me is at nearly 100,000 streams and is an upbeat tune that I described in the moment as a “definite bop”. I can assure that this is a compliment as it is a banger. An excellent cover of Carly Pearce’s popular song Next Girl followed which is a welcome break from the usual covers of My Church or Girl Crush. Not Scared Anymore is a beautifully haunting track aimed at those who don’t think they’re good enough or need a pick me up. Inspiring lyrics that were very well sung. Another Word is the lead single from XOXO and is a bouncy tune which is reminiscent of the female stars of the country scene – Kelsea Ballerini, Cassadee Pope and Maddie & Tae. Kelsey finished the set with Magnetic which is probably her most well known song on the UK country scene, and I can see why – a funky pop country song that had me dancing in my seat. I, for one, am a convert and will be sure to check out Kelsey live again in the future.

 

Kelsey was followed by Eddy Smith of Eddy Smith and the 507; and again, someone for whom this was the first time I was seeing live. Eddy’s style reminds me very much of Drake White and we were very lucky to have him there as he was rushing off to play another show later in the evening. Eddy’s first contribution to the evening was a new song, The Ballad of Bobby Grey and was a bluesy song with wonderful gospel sounding keyboard accompaniment, and I’m very much looking forward to a full band version of this. Ticket Out of Here is the latest single and is more upbeat than the first song but still had a very heavy blues influence. And I loved it! Middle of Nowhere was the first single off the band’s first EP in 2019 and has been championed by Matt on the radio. It’s a gospel-blues tune that I join Matt in championing. The band’s next single is a lockdown tune (I’m impressed I’ve got this far into the review without mentioning lockdown!!) and is inspired by a chat with his landlord about losing all income when the pandemic hit last year. Something for Free is out on Friday October 22nd and has a wonderful upbeat bluesy piano accompaniment to Eddy’s lyrics. Strangers (Since I’ve Been Loving You) was the first song they wrote as a band, while rehearsing in room 507 at Kingston University (alma mata of yours truly – make of that what you will) and is slightly slower than others in the set but is a great listen. The last track before Eddy had to shoot off was The Good Times and was released earlier this year and was the last song the band played on stage before the lockdowns last year having been written shortly before. It seems apt therefore that as we get back to good times Eddy finished with this. Again, a very bluesy style track, albeit quite upbeat and good fun. I think Eddy fitted the bill of Nashville Meeting London exactly. Most people associate Nashville with country, but it is known as Music City and gospel and blues play a massive part of that. Eddy’s style is very much on that end of the scale and I cannot recommend having a listen highly enough.

 

Our headliner for the evening was Katee Kross, who jumped up the bill as mentioned earlier. Katee is again someone I’d not seen live before (this appears to be the theme of the evening, from my perspective at least), and from the off I could tell I was not going to be disappointed. She was accompanied by Ross, a man of few words. She opened with Show Your Hand, a song about not taking things for granted, with soulful yet powerful lyrics about things like hugging loved ones. Katee’s powerful vocals were accompanied by a beautiful guitar track. What followed was an unexpected inclusion in a country/Nashville evening but a welcome one. A cover of Starman, by David Bowie that was sung with accomplishment and flair that more than did the original justice. Hey There Mister is a song about what can be quite an emotive topic. Written from the perspective of a refugee seeking help and was partly inspired by the media coverage and one particular story about a 17 year of who people thought was faking his refugee status. Surprisingly it seemed like an upbeat tune, despite the topic and had some inspiring lyrics. Ross would normally play this on the electric guitar but did excellently on his acoustic to help bring the tune to life. Bluebird, and song about a loved one passing away, followed and this was a slower tune, reflecting the sadness of the subject. Katee’s vocals on this were amazing – the right balance of haunting and melancholy. I loved that song, and it did tear me up slightly – a sure sign of a good sad song. An excellent cover of everyone’s second favourite Shania song, You’re Still the One followed and this is welcome in any future set of Katee’s I happen to be at. The audience singalong came in the form of Diamonds in the Dust. The perfect song to bring the mood and tempo up – a sassy tune and lyrics complimented by Katee’s vocals. The album, Show Your Hand, which is Katee’s fourth, recently won UK Country Album of the Year which is a fantastic and deserved achievement. The “encore” was a cover of Buddy Holly’s That’ll be the Day, excellently played by Ross and a good crowd pleaser to finish the evening.

 

The Nashville Meets London season is back next year and if this last show is indicative of the quality that’ll be on the bill, they are sure to be as popular as ever.

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