How do you choose the best top ten live country songs?
A Country to Country (C2C) festival will garner 10 artists before lunch, and I’ve been fortunate enough to attend five of these annual country musical festivals in London. I’ve also been to one Long Road festival and a CMA Fest (both in 2019; WHAT a year). And a festival in Ireland.
And then there are all the individual country gigs I’ve attended in the last seven years alone (I’m counting just the one virtual live song in my list).
Let me know if you agree with my choices!
10. C2C, London, 2015: Brandy Clark – ‘Stripes’
Brandy’s revenge song, ‘Stripes’, was the first country song I’d ever heard live, “there’s no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion/the only thing saving your life/is that I don’t look good in orange and I hate stripes”. For the previous two years I’d tried to figure out my way from Devon to London for a mini-break (I was mum of a toddler and could barely organise my day never mind a weekend away in a Big City). I finally found an amazing friend (gig-friend) who would come with me in 2015. From our cheap-seats view at The 02, we both looked at the floor and knew we were coming back in 2016 to a different seat.
9. C2C, London, 2016: Maren Morris – ‘My Church‘
Back when C2C tickets didn’t cost more than the price of fuel in 2022, my friend and I bought said floor seats for the 2016 festival. We were at the front of the Yamaha Stage (satellite stage) when this tiny artist called Maren got up to sing ‘My Church’. Have you ever listened to a silent arena? STILL get goose bumps every time I hear the line, “I find holy redemption/when I put this car in drive/roll the window down and turn up the dial”.
8. 02 Academy, Bristol, 2017 : Brothers Osborne – ‘Stay a Little Longer‘
I’d first heard John and TJ, at their debut C2C appearance the year before. But I hadn’t HEARD them until my first Brothers Osborne gig; I was near the front, with a new friend I’d made, from Bristol; (scene of an upcoming Best Live Song). I hadn’t appreciated the guitar skills until I head John’s solo on ‘Stay a Little Longer’. His half-a-song-solo.
7. Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 2018: Luke Combs – ‘Honky Tonk Highway‘
I was second row at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (WELL away from the bar) for Luke Combs. WHAT a show! From the moment he launched beer into the crowd, this 90s enthusiast played an awesome set, including my favourite Combs’ song, the upbeat, 90s-sounding ‘Honky Tonk Highway’. Far better show than his recent C2C appearance (where he didn’t play ‘Honky Tonk Highway’). He even had to bring out a guest singer (it was Ed Sheeran, if you blinked in March).
6. CMA Fest, Nashville, 2019: Dierks Bentley – ‘I Hold On‘
I was late to the Dierks Bentley party, so missed his UK shows back in the day. It was probably his humour that caught my attention and Burning Man, not even the best track on The Mountain, one of my car’s favourite CDs. His 30 minute CMA Fest slot was one of the best I’d seen, from the moment he whipped off his flannel shirt (steady on; he wore a t-shirt) declaring he’d just stepped off a plane and was, to coin a British term, hanging. It was the first time I’d heard I Hold On and, yeah I was a goner.
5. C2C, London 2022: Ashley McBryde – ‘El Dorado‘
It wasn’t easy choosing the best live track from McBryde’s flawless C2C set this year. I mean. International arena stage for ‘Girl Goin’ Nowhere’ (after her 2018 debut!). But, I’ve seen Ashley perform quite a few times, usually smaller shows, and this was the first time I’d heard the driving ‘El Dorado’, which I absolutely love; “the needle’s dropping, but the tank ain’t empty yet.” Girl, you’re 100 x full. Will I hear this live next week in Brizzle (Bristol?) Here’s hoping!
4. CMA Fest, Nashville, 2019: Tanya Tucker – ‘Delta Dawn’
My second all-time favourite country song is ‘Delta Dawn’, the hit that thirteen year old Tanya Tucker took to the top in the ‘70s. So hearing it belted out on a stage in Nashville? When Brandi Carlile is fangirling right along beside her? A lifetime of experience captured in a three-minute song.
3. Facebook, 2020-2022: Erin Enderlin – ‘Queen of Marina Del Rey‘
The queen of sad songs that are so sweet you’re sobbing happy tears. Over two years of twice-weekly Facebook lives, Erin performed her songs, the cuts she’s had for other artists (hello Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, Luke Bryan, Reba), random requests from emotional fans and new music she was developing. One song stood out from the rest, ‘Queen of Marina Del Rey’ (which Sir Elton is a fan of). The lyrical reminiscing of this beach-based character is, to coin a Derry Girl phrase, cracker.
2. The Roundhouse, London, 2019 AND The Long Road Festival, 2019: Kip Moore – ‘Midnight Slow Dance‘
Hands up who thought I was going to make Kip number one (on this list)? Hands up who was in north London in the week before Kip’s international headline set at The Long Road Festival where the delicious ‘Midnight Slow Dance’ was played live for the first time? This Springsteen-esque rocker has such a rhythm that’s separate and part of the lyrics all at once. I’m so glad it moved from the ‘Underground EP’ to the ‘Wild World’ Deluxe album. I mean, if I’d heard South live this year ‘Midnight Slow Dance’ would have had a contender. All I know is that these are the songs Kip should always write and the band should always perform.
1. CMA Harvest Fest, Westport, Ireland, 2017: Logan Brill – ‘Walk of Shame’
I heard ‘Walk of Shame’ during my first Logan set (C2C 2016, Indigo). Hadn’t a clue who she was, then all of a sudden her songs are so spot-on I need them all in my life (‘Shuteye’ sits alongside Kip and Drake in my car). I was also finding my confidence in talking to artists, because at the end of the day they’re just people. At her Meet and Greet I casually mentioned that song title has another name in the UK – and ‘The Stride of Pride’ story was born. I saw her an hour later on the Big Entrance stage, where I bumped into a lovely lass from Bristol, who I saw Brothers Osborne with.
BUT, it was hearing this story on stage in Ireland (where I met a very good
Kip gig friend for the first time; we’re on a Brothers/Ashley rager next week) and Logan spotting me in the audience and it was my 40th and we were laughing, and my very good friend holding my daughter’s chips while we chatted with Logan at her M&G, then me walking away leaving her with the chips….live music is all about the memories, right?! We miss you, Logan, hope you’re doing well.
Live gigs that almost made the top ten…
Charlie Worsham singing ‘Birthday Suit’ on Bristol’s (moored) boat, Thekla in 2018, just before he was presented with a cake for his actual birthday. A few weeks later hearing Drake White on the same boat sing, well, all of it…the man IS music. Hearing Reba’s ‘Fancy’ and Zac Brown cover ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ at C2C 2017 (not at the same time; could you imagine?) Not losing it when I heard Kane Brown ‘Lose It’ in London in February 2020.