Last year’s ‘Nashville In The Round’ tour received rave reviews and seemed to strike a chord with country fans all over the UK. Having missed it last time around, I just had to check out this year’s show at the Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham, which featured (as always) Jenn Bostic and Sarah Darling, who were joined this time by Grammy-nominated song writer and artist Michael Logen. I interviewed Sarah before the show and she said how special it was to solely focus on the lyrics at these intimate events; it really was like being in a Nashville bar and it was a stunning representation of everything country music is to me.
Each of them took turns to perform a song, often with the others accompanying. Sarah Darling kicked off proceedings with my personal favourite from her beautiful ‘Dream Country’ album, a track called ‘Starry Eyes’. “Starry eyes, I hope you stay wild at heart”, an intricately written, passionate message to Sarah’s younger self, encouraging belief and strength through the toughest of times. Sarah also gave us a spine-tingling performance of ‘Where Cowboys Ride’, her love letter to Wyoming, as well as the gorgeous Parisian ‘Montmarte’, her latest radio single ‘Halley’s Comet’ and the incredibly vulnerable ‘Stargazer’. The new album, as I’ve said on many occasions, is one of the best you will hear this year; sit back, enjoy it and lose yourself in its beauty. Sarah also performed ‘More Issues Than Vogue’, a new track which she debuted at C2C back in March. One for the girls which has already become a fan favourite by the sound of it!
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Michael Logen prior to the show, but his song writing pedigree and his list of collaborators is impressive to say the least. Michael’s songs have been featured on many TV shows including Nashville, Suits and Parenthood, and his song ‘Breaking Your Own Heart’ was recorded by Kelly Clarkson on her Grammy-winning album ‘Stronger’. Michael started with a performance of ‘Wake Up When It’s Over’, co-written with Maren Morris, and you Nashville fans out there might remember Scarlett and Gunnar’s rendition. A real surprise for me was his performance of Will Hoge’s ‘Goodnight, Goodbye’, my favourite Will Hoge track which I wasn’t aware he had co-written. He also gave us a taster of his recent album, including the infectious and soulful ‘Mystery’ which the crowd absolutely loved, and ‘Human After All’ with Jenn singing Ruby Amanfu’s part. We’re big Paul Carrack fans too, so Michael’s performance of his co-write ‘I Can Hear Ray’ was quite literally music to our ears!
Jenn Bostic, with her piano accompaniment, gave us a glimpse into her upcoming project with some brilliant tracks that instantly connected with the Birmingham fans. She began with a co-write with Kyshona Armstrong (who appeared with Jenn and Sarah on last year’s tour) titled ‘Haunting Me’. Written about an ex who just can’t escape the memory – “hasn’t the ghost of your love taken more than enough” – a bouncy melody with a rocky edge and attitude to it. One of the stand-out moments of the night was Jenn’s performance of ‘Jealous Of The Angels’, a #1 hit for her on the song writer charts and a gorgeous tribute to her father who tragically died in a car crash when she was just ten years old. It ended with ‘Amazing Grace’ which turned the café almost into a church gathering; it was such a touching moment hearing everybody singing together. ‘Hollywood’ was also a great moment with the anthemic line “Raise em up, raise em up, Hollywood” and the audience participation it prompted, as well as another new track ‘For The Faint Of Heart’, about the struggles of being a musician and one for all the dreamer out there.
The show finished with a couple of timeless classics. You may have seen their performance of ‘Jolene’ on Bob Harris’ ‘Under The Apple Tree’ – they stepped away from the microphones and gave a very raw performance, showing off their vocal prowess with a superb rendition. Finally, they covered Janis Joplin’s #1 hit ‘Me And Bobby McGee’, which was originally recorded by Roger Miller, each singing a verse each.
The popularity of ‘Nashville In The Round’ has been astonishing. They’ve sold out everywhere they’ve been, and it’s fully deserved. Sarah, Michael and Jenn provided a wonderful couple of hours of entertainment and I could have happily watched them for much longer. The quality of the song writing, as well as the quality of their delivery, was phenomenal and it’s nights like these that make me proud to be a country music fan.
Dan Wharton (@LifeInASong_Dan)