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Tenille Townes, KOKO, London live review

The rising country star was opening for Drake White at his Country Music Week show.

Tenille Townes
Credit: Jessica Steddom

Originally from Alberta, Canada, Tenille Townes is emerging as one of the brightest new stars in country music. After moving to Nashville aged just 19, she’s currently making her debut album with legendary producer Jay Joyce. This week she’s been touring the UK as part of the CMA Songwriters Series, before opening for Drake White at his headline show in London last night.

Townes opened her acoustic set with Where You Are. It’s a bright, upbeat love song with plenty of twang in the intro before slowing down. As soon as she began to sing I was blown away by how powerful her voice was and how she was able to command the stage. She had a great richness to her tone and I liked the gravelly edge to her voice too.

The set had a strong country-rock feel, whether that was the sassy empowerment anthem White Horse or Townes’ soaring cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (which she told the crowd was her dad’s favourite song). Both songs showed off her husky vocals and her control, giving the major notes much more impact. She also frequently tossed her hair as she moved around the stage, and got some great sounds out of her guitar – including one particularly impressive riff!

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For me the highlight of the set was Jersey On The Wall, about the tragedy of young lives cut short. I loved the simple yet vivid lyrics and the plaintive, questioning chorus which showed off the sweeter side of Townes’ vocal. It’s a hugely powerful, haunting song and one that stays with you long after it’s over.

Townes closed her set with her current single, Somebody’s Daughter, which she wrote about a young woman she’d seen on the side of the road. The rocky, uptempo melody contrasted with the subdued lyrics and I really liked the little vignettes she created about her central character’s early life. She’s got a great ear for a turn of phrase and is able to create detailed imagery with just a few words. The song also brought out the more soulful aspects of her voice, going into a spoken-word bridge before building up to a huge final note. It was a poignant end to the set and showed a maturity beyond her years.

Overall this was a great introduction to Townes as an artist. She showed off her talents as a lyricist and guitar player, unique vocals and an ability to deliver upbeat, rocky songs alongside emotional ballads. The crowd gave her a huge cheer at the end and based on their reaction hopefully it won’t be long before she’s back in the UK. In the meantime, we’ve got her debut album to look forward to…

Set list: 1. Where You Are 2. Jersey On The Wall 3. White Horse 4. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2 cover) 5. Somebody’s Daughter Performance date: 24th October 2018

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