Randy Houser, Angaleena Presley, Michael Tyler, Eric Paslay Shepherds Bush Empire
Day 2 of Country Music Week and the team have uprooted and moved half a mile round the corner to a fully seated Shepherds Bush Empire for a Songwriters Round. At first glance the selection seems a bit unusual, it is skewed 3 to 1 in favour of male singers and there does not seem a a lot that connects the artists at first glance.
The opening round was a bit awkward, it started in fine form with Randy Houser acting as host and opening up with a cracking version of “Boots On”. but then there was a strange introduction for Angaleena as Randy pulled out a sheet of paper that for all intents and purposes sounded like a wikipedia entry. Angaleena seemed a little bit restrained at first, like someone told to be on their best behaviour, but she could not help but waspishly observe that she was the middle of a sausage fest”. Technical problems with her guitar caused a few minutes delay and it ended up with her using Randy’s for the first few songs. To continue the slightly awkward opening round Michael Tyler opened with the unfortunate line “Has anyone heard of Jason Aldean?”, possibly the one country singer the whole world has now heard of! He did salvage the situation though with his contribution “Girl Like You”, while Eric Paslay looking from our vantage point up high, all hat and beard as he played “Friday Night” with a little snippet of Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly” at the end.
Round 2 got things going in earnest, a new song from Randy, called “Our Hearts” was pretty much a straight telling of how he met his wife, and was touching. Angaleena started to find her stride, with the beautiful “Better Off Red” where the chorus flows so delicately. Michael Tyler’s “If I Was You Man” possibly took the round, Eric Paslay admired the “Beautiful theatre” before he delivered a slice of classic country with “She Don’t Love You”
Randy kicked off round 3 with “High Time” which had lasted for 10 minutes the previous night and has caused 2 strings to break. Angaleena jokingly looked concerned as potentially they could lose yet another guitar. She then raided her Pistol Annies catalogue for “Unhappily Married” as she really started to settle and delivered round after round of exemplary performances. Michael Tyler gave us a great story that accompanied “Hey Mama”, initially a warning from his Mum to him and his brother about phoning home when they got drunk, when the call did eventually come from his brother it was a drunken voice saying “Hey Mama I Think I Found the Right One”, it was heart warming stuff. Eric meanwhile was getting freaked by the attentive silent audience, “It’s awesome” he would exclaim! He then played the song made famous by Jake Owens “Blue Jean Night”, with the audience providing the required “Whoas” .
Round four saw Randy go back to the very start with “Started With A Blue Jean Kiss”, while Angaleena had a song co-written with Guy Clark “Cheer Up Little Darling” once again delivering the goods with style. Michael Tyler delivered a Jason Aldean / Kelsea Ballerini song “First Time Again”. It was at this point that Eric really settled into the evening, describing how Monday had been “Weird Hard Day” and laid down the beautiful “Deep As It Is Wide” and the Shepherds Bush audience took him to their hearts.
Round five was something of curiosity, in a rare misjudgement Randy played by his own admission a dumb song, and begged the audience not to hate him. The whole thing from intro to song should have been for another occasion, we know from the previous night that he has much better material than “Beach To The Sand”. Possibly one that fares better on the other side of the Atlantic. Angaleena brought things back on track with the hilarious the autobiographical “Knocked Up”, while Michaels “They Can’t See” had a touch of John Mayer about it. Eric had the Shepherds Bush Empire lit up with mobile phones for “It’s Song About A Girl”
As if to make up for the previous rounds debacle, Randy played a new song, about the different paths that we can take, “One To Many Time” was able to erase the previous round instantly. Taking the baton, Angaleena saved one of her best performances of the night for the title track of her latest album “Wrangled”. Michael Tyler had a very sad story about folks going back to the home that they had been forced to sell only to not recognize it as an interstate was running through, I thought “Interstate” was his best song of the night. Eric finished off what was an extraordinary round of songwriting with a Will Hoge co-write “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”, he was visibly growing with confidence as each round passed.
The final round saw Randy save his big crowd pleaser until last, “Like A Cowboy” was even more intense than the previous night, firing off a huge last note off microphone that saw huge swathes of the crowd stand up and cheer. There was a short little reprise to finish it off but that was to bring his night to an end. Angaleena always ready with a well place quip observed the she was the “only non UK virgin” she also passed on the truism that “When bad things happen writing a song makes it easier” before finishing off her set with “Lemon Drop”, with the audience providing the whistles on queue. Michael saved his big co write until last, Dierks Bentley’s “Somewhere On A Beach”. Eric Paslay closed the whole show and possibly won the night on points with “High Class”.
So possibly lacking some of the interaction of other Songwriters rounds, that we’ve seen but that will no doubt develop as the tour winds around the country.