If anybody desperately needed a second album, it’s The Shires. ‘Brave’, as we all know, was hugely successful and made Ben and Crissie the first UK country act to chart in the top 10 of the UK all-genre chart. Fully deserved too; a truly brilliant debut which broke through that notoriously tough country barrier on this side of the pond. But, having seen Ben and Crissie SEVEN times now, the ‘splitting the crowd in half’ routine on ‘Tonight’ has certainly run its course! Time for something new….
The new project is the sophomore album ‘My Universe’, set to be released on October 7th. The lead single ‘Beats To Your Rhythm’ was released just over a week ago. My one big fear for this follow-up album has always been the potential influence of the record label, pushing them towards a more mainstream-orientated style. I fell in love with The Shires when I first heard Bob Harris playing ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ (feels like decades ago!) – good, raw country. Are my fears slightly far-fetched or is there any cause for concern here?
Judging by the new single, it seems the new material might well be taking the duo in a slightly more commercial direction. The song begins initially with a signature catchy guitar riff, not too dissimilar to the likes of ‘Friday Night’ and ‘All Over Again’, with a clever back beat at the pace of a heartbeat. However, the frequent changes in the rhythm soon make the song seem a little disjointed and it takes a few listens to fully grasp it. It’s not a particularly easy one to connect with, unlike much of the material on ‘Brave’.
There also seems to be slightly less focus on the lyrical side of things, and it’s difficult to review this without mentioning the repetitiveness. For a relatively short three-minute long track, repeating ‘Beats To Your Rhythm’ fifteen times is perhaps a few too many. A little more depth could have taken this song to a much higher standard. We know they can do it; ‘State Lines’, ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ and ‘Brave’ were masterpieces. I sincerely hope the rest of the new album delves slightly deeper than “you bring out the best in me, you bring out the best in me, my heart beats to your rhythm”.
Despite that, it isn’t deserving of a damning report by any means. The chorus is very infectious and you’ll be humming it for the rest of the day. It’s tailor-made for Radio 2’s ‘A-List’ which was no doubt the main target, and it has been selected as the station’s record of the week. It would also be remiss of me to ignore the vocal delivery which is faultless as usual; gorgeous harmonies and individual performances that cement their positions as two of UK country’s leading vocalists.
I’m just hoping and praying that Ben and Crissie won’t do a ‘Band Perry’ on us and abandon what they do best. Give me ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ over this any day of the week, but be sure to check it out and let us know what you think!