One Saturday in March this year, my friends and I left our Nashville-packed C2C morning session, with a firm plan for lunch; when you have four days of talented musicians to choose from you must be ruthless with your timings. The very hungry ones walked ahead, I walked behind chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen for, well, two years. As we approached the Big Entrance stage, we simultaneously stalled our conversation, our heads turning left to the band on stage, surrounded by a six-deep audience. We gravitated towards the sound; lunch forgotten.
The band sounded like the best heartland rock and Nashville sound, mixed with wry British humour. We had a Kip Moore, Ashley McBryde and Luke Combs reaction the first time they played London; we were transfixed by the music.
The band was Essex County, British brothers Kieran, Mark and Nate Bass, and their self-titled EP, produced by Brad Hill and out today, is five tracks of mid ‘00scountry (Rascal Flats) and ‘80s rock (Bon Jovi) with more than a hint of fun, extremely talented vocals and the kind of music that could take you on a windows-down, long drive, with a smile on your face.
Opening power ballad, ‘You in Tennessee’ is full of rich harmonies and ‘80s drums, lamenting a long-distance American love story gone wrong, with a touch of Hot Country Knights’ lyrical mischievousness in the chorus, “there’s gold in California, there’s blues in New Orleans, there’s a devil down in Georgia, but there’s no you in Tennessee…I know why they call it Wyoming, but baby why did you have to go?”.
But then the next ballad, ‘Waiting On Me’, is an unexpected, stunning, guitar-led power ballad song of grief, ‘pour us a drink, save a seat for when I get home…paint the sky or make it snow, bring the rain just so I know that I can always see you waiting on me”. Beautiful harmonies and musicianship embracing the pain of losing a loved one.
A bass knocks on the door to the intro on the rocking ‘Fire It Up’, the single from the EP, before the drums kick the door down. This song is a must-listen for any Kip Moore fan. Vocals. Guitar solos. Bridges. Yes.
The tempo slows right down on penultimate track ‘Long Way Home’ and the knee-weakening harmonies are almost acapella at times, making it easy to see why the lads cite The Eagles as an inspiration, with an echo of an ‘80s Chicago sound.
And an inner Peter Cetera is channelled on the final, and my favourite track, the piano ballad, ‘Can’t Find Me’. Just listen to it, it’s perfect, as is the Essex County EP.
Track listing: 1. You in Tennessee 2. Waiting on Me 3. Fire it Up 4. Long Way Home 5. Can’t Find Me. Record Label: Self Produced Release Date: 30th September Buy ‘Essex County’ now