REVIEW: The Shires – ‘Accidentally On Purpose’

The Shires’ dominance of UK country music continues with their new album ‘Accidentally On Purpose’, which has entered the all-genre UK album chart at #3 this week. Helped by TV and radio appearances left, right and centre, this is a stunning achievement for Ben and Crissie and all at Decca. Whether you’re a fan or not, they’re doing wonderful things to expand the country music fan base this side of the pond and it’s so refreshing to see the music we love being embraced by the masses. Admittedly, ‘Accidentally On Purpose’ is a change in direction from the slightly more rootsy style we heard on the first two albums; for the most part it’s an attempt at mainstream country music that will fit seamlessly onto US country radio as well as having UK appeal… I think they’ve achieved that target.

Recorded in Nashville and produced by Lindsay Rimes, the new collection is a slick, massively well produced body of work, possessing the quality to stand up well against any of the material coming from the US.

“Accidentally on Purpose is full of personal songs that really sums up the whirlwind journey we’ve been on together. From the first day we met, we’ve been crazy dreamers with big plans, who really believed that Country could break into the UK mainstream

One of my personal favourites, ‘The Hard Way’, kicks off the album. A lovely pop-country track with a really powerful chorus; don’t be too surprised to see this one released as a single in the near future. The Lady Antebellum-esque vibe is so radio-friendly and there’s a great energy to the song which gives the album an attention-grabbing introduction.

The two most pop-influenced tracks come next, the first of which is ‘Echo’. I would argue this is the most off-piste Ben and Crissie have ever ventured, with the use of an electronic drum beat and a very synthesised feel to the song. “Tonight we’re gonna shake this town, nobody’s gonna turn us down” – it’s an undeniably catchy party anthem and the biggest indication so far of a change in direction for the duo. The lead single ‘Guilty’ follows, which Radio 2 have really embraced in recent weeks and it’s acted as a great launch pad for the album. Again, another one that you won’t be able to sit still listening to, and it’s got all the essential ingredients to be a country radio hit.

There are a couple of interesting writers on the credits which will raise a few eyebrows. Of course, Ed Sheeran is the stand-out – Ed co-wrote ‘Stay The Night’ along with John Newman, James Newman and John McDaid, and as soon as the chorus kicks in, you can sense that trademark Ed Sheeran sound that’s difficult to pinpoint. I hope Ben and Crissie include it on the set list when they go on tour next month, as there’s some wonderful atmospheric instrumentation and the thumping backbeat is tailor-made for the big venues. Liz Rose is the other eyebrow-raiser, credited on ‘River Of Love’ alongside Ben and Jeff Cohen. Liz Rose is, in my opinion, one of Nashville’s most talented and most accomplished songwriters, and she’s certainly had an impact here as ‘River Of Love’ is my favourite track on the album. It’s such an uplifting anthem and an outpouring of joy that will no doubt become a firm fan favourite.

Elsewhere, the title track ‘Accidentally On Purpose’ is surely another contender for a single release; that mandolin riff (and the whole melody to be honest) screams Kelsea Ballerini, and it’s one that doesn’t need a few listens to grasp. If you like your pop-country, this will be right up your street.

I also love ‘Speechless’, which is more like The Shires we know and love – “You’re saying it all without saying a thing at all”. A beautiful ballad about a natural connection in a relationship that doesn’t require any words, it showcases Crissie’s vocal wonderfully. Alongside the closing track ‘Loving You Too Long’, it’s a sign that although this album is a slight departure from familiar ground, there’s still an attraction to the power ballads and they know what they do best. The album is a good mix of experimental moments along with some familiar sounds to keep the loyal fans satisfied, and it could do great things in terms of their overseas exposure.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan