HomeEF CountryCountry Music Week Hub, Bush Hall, London live review

Country Music Week Hub, Bush Hall, London live review

Since its inception, the Country Music Week Hub has become one of the most distinct parts of the entire event. Held at London’s Bush Hall, the event acts as a weekend afternoon showcase for many of the up-and-coming artists appearing, giving them the opportunity to perform their songs in a more intimate setting. This year’s show took on a slight different format as a writer’s round, featuring BRELAND, Matt Stell, Kezia Gill and Caitlyn Smith (Elvie Shane was also due to appear, but had to cancel due to illness – best wishes for a speedy recovery!).

BRELAND kicked off the show with ‘Beers On Me’, his number one hit in the US, and brought a great sense of humour to the performance – including his ‘Hardy impression’ – along with soulful vocals and a great sense of energy despite coming off a full-on show just over 12 hours earlier. I loved the versatility he demonstrated across his four songs, whether that was the heartfelt breakup ballad ‘For What It’s Worth’ or bluesy slow jam ‘Don’t Look At Me’ (which also featured a killer riff from his guitarist Christian), as well as his humour on stage. He and Matt Stell in particular had great banter, cracking jokes and bouncing off each other really well, and it felt like the most relaxed performance I’d ever seen from him – more of that in future please! His section closed with ‘Praise The Lord’, a high-energy number that had the crowd clapping and singing along and gave him a chance to show off some impressive vocal runs. He’s really cemented his status as a rising star this week and I can’t wait to hear more from him in future.

Matt Stell’s set couldn’t have been more different, but I felt that he really shone in this format. His first track was ‘One Of Us’, an ode to small-town life which was full of details and really highlighted the depth and gravel in his voice. Elsewhere, he tugged at the heartstrings with current single ‘Man Made’, the yearning ‘Everywhere But On’ and closer ‘Prayed For You’, which definitely had me welling up! He’s shown that he can definitely command a stage and I’m really looking forward to seeing him again at C2C in March – I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.

Of course it wasn’t just about the men however. UK talent Kezia Gill showed that she could more than hold her own, kicking off with her ode to Nashville ‘Country Song’ that highlighted her incredible vocals and mesmerising stage presence. She followed that with her heartbreaking new single ‘Like I Did Before’ – receiving its very first live performance that day! – the tongue-in-cheek ‘Thirties’, an ode to enjoying the simpler pleasures in life as you get older, which included a venue name check, crowd clap-along and plenty of laughs. Her final song was ‘Whiskey Drinking Woman’, with a spellbinding acapella intro and an enormous note at the end (as well as some sneaky chair dancing from BRELAND). I also really enjoyed her sense of humour as she cracked jokes with Matt, and am now desperate for her and Caitlyn Smith to write a song together!

Speaking of Caitlyn Smith, despite having arguably the most challenging task going last out of the four performers, she more than held her own with her gorgeous music. Her first song was ‘High’, which was utterly spine-tingling with its balance of delicate vocals and huge power on the chorus – I even spotted BRELAND filming her singing at one point, which I think tells you just how good she is! Also included in her set were new song ‘Mississippi’, a beautiful warm ode to her home in Minnesota, and ‘Maybe In Another Life’. She delivered the latter with such raw emotion that it was impossible not to be moved, and you could absolutely hear a pin drop in the room as she played – it was just magnificent. Her final song was ‘Contact High’, a stomping, rocky number that showed off her sultry, more playful side. It really lifted the energy in the room and was a brilliant note to end the afternoon on.

Overall Country Music Week Hub’s return was a great success in my view. The songwriters’ round format gave the artists great opportunity to tell the stories, share jokes with the crowd and bounce off each other, as well as highlighting their incredible talent in a more intimate setting. My personal standouts were Kezia Gill and Caitlyn Smith, but I enjoyed all four performers – they did an absolutely brilliant job and I think they’re all destined for great things. Here’s hoping for a return of this event next and showcasing even more brilliant talent!

Set list: 1. Beers On Me (performed by BRELAND) 2. One Of Us (performed by Matt Stell) 3. Country Song (performed by Kezia Gill) 4. High (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 5. For What It’s Worth (performed by BRELAND) 6. Man Made (performed by Matt Stell) 7. Like I Did Before (performed by Kezia Gill) 8. Mississippi (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 9. Don’t Look At Me (performed by BRELAND) 10. Everywhere But On (performed by Matt Stell) 11. Thirties (performed by Kezia Gil) 12. Maybe In Another Life (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 13. Praise The Lord (performed by BRELAND) 14. Prayed For You (performed by Matt Stell) 15. Whiskey Drinking Woman (performed by Kezia Gill) 16. Contact High (performed by Caitlyn Smith) Performance date: 22nd October 2022

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Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura is a music and lifestyle blogger with a particular interest in country music, and occasional writer for Entertainment Focus.

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