Imagine this for a Festival line-up; Blake Shelton, Sarah Evans, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Runaway June, Uncle Kracker, Stephen Tyler, Tracy Chapman, Rascal Flatts, Lindsay Ell and Levi Hummon. Then imagine that same line-up costing you just £25 and that you’d get to see it in an intimate, 400 capacity venue, from the second row. Then add on the fact that you get a freebie poster and a bag too! Pretty impressive, I’d have said. Then take into account that this was not a tribute act show. Well I can reassure you that that’s the kind of show you get when you book a Bluebird Café Songwriter’s Circle ticket. I should also apologise to Marcus Hummon and JT Harding as I didn’t include them in my line-up as you may well never have heard of them.
JT Harding – Taking to the stage for a London show in a Union Jack suit and tie is always going to get a warm reaction from the crowd. Opening the set with Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” isn’t going to do anything to calm down that reaction! JT’s writing credits are like a who’s who of popular Country artists and his witty lyrics and banter between songs made him a very popular artist tonight. His second song “Somewhere With You” from Kenny Chesney gave Lindsay Ell the chance to show off some of her guitar skills too. We were then treated to some Keith Urban, not my favourite artist I’ll admit, but the anecdote about how they got to writing together was a worthy addition to the evening. JT’s next song gave the opportunity to duet with Lindsay on the Dierks Bentley song “Different For Girls”, every bit as good as the original. JT’s set really brought the party to Bush Hall and his closing song “Y’allsome” would get any party on their feet and cheering along.
Levi Hummon – Taking the artists slightly out of order for reasons that will become apparent later Levi Hummon was third in the round. After the sartorial elegance of JT, Levi was in standard issue check shirt, white T, jeans and work boots. Levi was brought up in and around the Bluebird Café in Nashville. The son of singer songwriter Marcus Hummon, of who more later, Levi decided to follow his father in to the music business. With a set of mainly original songs tonight Levi treated us to some very good tunes and the stories behind them. He’s well worth checking out on Spotify where his current single “Stupid”, released, on Friday has just been added to a couple of the important Playlists. His song “Make It Love”, a song about hate never winning, even had Lindsay taking pictures and filming from on the stage! To prove his merit as a songwriter we also got to hear the song he wrote for Steven Tyler’s country album. "Red, White and You" is a typically rocky song, with Tom Petty references and some extremely high, Steven Tyler-esque notes! Levi’s closing song, inspired by both Ed Sheeran and Tracy Chapman’s 2Fast Car" was a very entertaining “Don’t Waste The Night”. With a 50+ date tour lined up in the states with Eli Young Band expect to hear more from this exciting young artist.
Marcus Hummon – From son to father the line-up moves on to the older Hummon. Reminding the audience that at any given time there are between four and five thousand songwriters working in Nashville you begin to appreciate how difficult it can be to stand out from the crowd. So within that melting pot to get one hit record may be luck, to get more is clearly something else. Marcus seems to traditionally write for Female artists, so hearing those songs sung by him would, maybe, seem a little strange. But far from it. Kicking off with Sarah Evans “Born To Fly” written after Sarah’s record label had just called to tell her she ‘needed to lose the baby weight’. So what did they do? They ordered pizza and wrote the song! Marcus is probably most famous for penning a couple of Dixie Chicks songs. One of my all-time favourites “Cowboy Take Me Away” and Grammy nominated “Ready To Run”. Marcus had an easy manner with the audience and the anecdotes attached to the songs really brought them to life. To sing a song on his 29th Wedding anniversary that his wife doesn’t like, about running off with another woman, whilst sitting next to your son, is always a brave choice – but well worth it for the song that followed! We also got a song from the Runaway Junes before he took to the keys to close out the evening with a song co-written by Jeff Hanna of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame and made famous by Rascal Flatts, “Bless the Broken Road”.
Lindsay Ell – So why did I leave Lindsay to last, when she played second in the round? Mainly because she was the only artist I knew before tonight. Having seen her previously supporting the Band Perry on tour several years ago I was anxious to catch Lindsay while she was back in London and thank goodness I did. Recently added to the C2C line-up for 2018 and with a new album to promote, Lindsay’s star is certainly on the rise. Her set included mainly tracks off the new album, "The Project". Some were played simply and acoustically, but a Lindsay Ell set would not be complete without use of her loop pedal to add extra backing and a little bit of beat boxing and percussion too. Lindsay also gave us some good background to her songs, like the 15 minutes it took to write the last song to make it onto the record “Wildfire”. Lindsay can seemingly switch between rockier, driven songs and quieter, melodic songs with ease. Some of her guitar playing is quite unique in style too so you can be sure that whenever you get to see her, you’ll be in for great show.
All in all this was a phenomenal gig from what were to me 3 unknowns and someone I’d seen before but a while ago. Where this round differed from most I have seen was the amount of interaction between the artists on stage. Marcus provided backing to his son, who in turn sang some of his father’s songs. Lindsay duetted with JT and played on nearly every song of the night. Everyone seemed so at ease with each other and the vibe in the Hall was electric from beginning to end.