This week sees the return of Ashley Monroe to the UK for the first time since the release of her ‘Sparrow’ album. She seems to have found a home at Bush Hall, which she sold out for this trip – not once, but twice. ‘Home’ is exactly how she described the UK; there’s an appreciation for the creativeness and elegance of her music here, and Bush Hall is the perfect venue to showcase her immense talent.
Kicking off the entertainment was Nashville-based singer-songwriter Sean McConnell. Sean has been to the UK a couple of times, including the Texas Music Takeover back in 2016, and seems committed to building a fan base here. He’s set to release his new album ‘Secondhand Smoke’ on February 8th. Boy, can this guy sing! Sean’s song writing catalogue is mightily impressive, including Brett Young’s ‘Mercy’, Rascal Flatts’ ‘Come Wake Me Up’ and many more, but he’s an incredibly immersive act to watch live in his own right. A vocal full of heart and soul, combined with some wonderful Americana-based melodies, I’d put him right at the top of the pile in terms of opening acts I’ve seen. The reactions got louder as every song passed by; you could sense the growing connection between Sean and the audience and it was really special to see. ‘Greetings From Niagara’ falls was a personal highlight, one of the tracks from the forthcoming album, which will definitely be worth a listen judging by his performance last night. Top drawer.
Ashley Monroe took the stage soon after with ‘Hands On You’ (albeit with a technical issue with her guitar at first!), followed by the absolutely gorgeous ‘Hard On A Heart’ and ‘Mother’s Daughter’. They set the tone for a mesmerising set, full of tracks from the latest album which are all so imaginative and image-provoking. As a storyteller through her music, Ashley is one of the best I’ve come across, and is without doubt one of the best female vocalists in the genre. You really have to see her live to appreciate the sheer quality of her delivery.
“I thought for you guys I’d better go back to my old albums and remember what songs I’ve got!” said Ashley, leading into the old fan favourite ‘Like A Rose’ followed by ‘Two Weeks Late’. This was an audience who knew every word to every song, old and new. It was great to hear a selection of songs from ‘The Blade’ too, her best album in my opinion. ‘Mayflowers’ is simply a delight; country songwriting at its very best, and ‘Winning Streak’ was a really fun moment in the set that got everybody tapping their feet.
Sean McConnell returned to the stage mid-way through the set to duet with Ashley on The Cranberries’ ‘Linger’. Two highly experienced vocalists producing seamless harmonies – it was a joy to watch and a big highlight of the night. Soon after, Ashley sat down at the grand piano for a couple of songs, the first of which being ‘Orphan’. This is such a departure from anything Ashley has ever released beforehand, and her performance was mind-blowing. It’s a very dark, intriguing melody, and you could have heard a pin drop as the audience were totally transfixed.
Towards the end of the show, she brought out so me more fan favourites with the iconic and raunchy ‘Weed Instead Of Roses’, as well as ‘The Blade’ which for me, showcases Ashley’s ability at her very best. She left the stage to rapturous applause, before returning for a cover of Gram Parsons’ ‘Hickory Wind’. A thoroughly enjoyable night of classy, awe-inspiring live music that will live long in the memory.
1. Hands On You
2. Hard On A Heart
3. Mother’s Daughter
4. La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf cover)/Like A Rose
5. Two Weeks Late
8. She Wakes Me Up
9. Linger (Cranberries cover) (with Sean McConnell)
10. I’m Trying To
12. Keys To The Kingdom
13. Wild Love
14. Winning Streak
15. Weed Instead Of Roses
16. The Blade
17. Hickory Wind (Gram Parsons cover)