Review // The Shires spellbind at their sold-out Bristol show

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes show us exactly why they're the first Brits to make it in Nashville

The Shires review

Heading into O2 Academy on Friday night (after some wayward baby seagulls forced the gig to be relocated from Colston Hall), we were greeted by a rising warmth of harmonious sound which was the glorious chorus of Ward Thomas. Twin sisters from the beautiful landscapes of Hampshire, their subtle American-folk fusion sound drifted fondly over the dreamy heads of the bubbling audience. The young sisters held their ground amidst the gentle chatter of the arriving onlookers, before a blanket of hush fell to make way for their pure, country-inspired sounds. Playing extract tracks from their latest album Cartwheels, the girls enchanted their audience with soulful vocal harmonies set to a backing mashup of steel strings and melodic acoustic guitars. Interweaving delicate lyrics with heart-warming acoustic guitars and clashing symbols, Ward Thomas truly set the stage and atmosphere for the headliners, The Shires.

Interweaving delicate lyrics with heart-warming acoustic guitars and clashing symbols, Ward Thomas truly set the stage and atmosphere for the headliners

A country pop duo that have rapidly whirlwinded their way to the top of the country music game, The Shires took no prisoners in the delivery of their catchy tunes. Engaging fully with the hungry crowd from the get-go, the dynamic duo sung out their heartfelt riffs and country ballads to a roaring fan base strung across Bristol’s O2 Academy.

As the first British act ever to be signed to a major Nashville label, The Shires are embedded deep within the heart and home of country music

As the first British act ever to be signed to a major Nashville label, The Shires are embedded deep within the heart and home of country music, boasting collaborations with some of country’s best and finest. The two-piece have recently launched their latest album My Universe and have been touring fervently since its release in 2016. Backed by a bulky ensemble of instruments and session artists, the talented pair sing their prolific lyrics with the heartfelt honesty that is found in pure, country sounds.

With an obvious drive, grit and determination, the duo have forged a new path for themselves amongst the typical expectations of British folk music. A courageous mixture of American energy and ironic cliché is beautifully mixed up with a large helping of British charm. Add a booming bass drum and sugar-sweet vocal harmonies and you have The Shires. Both wordsmiths, songwriters and lyricists, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes share the centre stage, each bringing an eye catching presence and personality of their own.

A courageous mixture of American energy and ironic cliché is beautifully mixed up with a large helping of British charm

The O2 Academy rung with tumultuous cheers as The Shires played through their energetic set. Broken up with their token crooning and emotional ballads, the duo filled the corners of the Academy with uplifting melody and big, beaming smiles. Crissie and Ben bounced off each other’s energies and encouraged one another to deliver a greater performance. Wandering out after the band had finished their encore, we felt dazed – as if we had been hit by lightening. Perhaps we had. We wouldn’t have noticed.

Wandering out after the band had finished their encore, we felt dazed – as if we had been hit by lightening

With several more big dates and festivals lined up for the summer, The Shires aren’t short of offers to occupy their time. We can only hope they’ll bring their southern charm back to the West Country sometime soon.

theshiresmusic.com // soundcloud.com/the-shires-official

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