• Words John Berresford & Colin Jones

Hard Rock Country - Callum Gardner, Croft & Cotes, Rebecca Riedtmann, Connor Arnold, Danny McMah


When it’s a cold, wet Wednesday evening what better than to remember that the Hard Rock Café has a long line-up of Country acts playing for the princely sum of £5. So after jumping off the train, spending a fortune on a burger, getting lost coming out of Hyde Park Corner and eventually finding the (hidden) rear door to the Hard Rock basement it was time for some entertainment!

First on the bill was Callum Gardner. With the venue still fairly empty and an early start it was Callum’s job to get us warmed up for the evening. Callum’s style has a laid-back feel to it with long accentuations on some of the words. His debut single “Commit to the List” had a fair dose of reverb too. His second song “Hang Loose” which is coming out soon continued in the same vein, before “Without You” a love song with more jazzy overtones. By this stage the background noise was building up as more people started to arrive. His final song “Wriggle a Little” I’d class as a more Blues than Country style.

Croft and Cotes were up next. A 3-piece consisting of twins Matt & Dan Persell-Thompson on acoustic guitars with percussion provided by cajon. Their first song had a beach/summer sound to it with jangly guitars and a good back-beat. “We are it” continued the upbeat feel before “Devil on Your Shoulder” slowed things down with some good harmonies. This was billed as a song for when you’re down but was also pretty catchy! Throwing in a few covers to bulk up the set, we also had an Elvis medley and The Monkees “I’m a Believer” to get the now busy venue singing along.

The first female singer of the night was next on. Rebecca Riedtmann had a full band with her which really helped to enhance the sound. Her first song sounded familiar already, with a nice beat and got a really good reaction. Second song “Southern Dream” was Nashville inspired and continued to impress the crowd. “Whiskey & Wine” was a more upbeat song that served to highlight Rebecca’s vocals, Rebecca’s last song “Rust & Flames” was a tribute to her Dad and was a great way to finish the set.

Hard to believe we were already on to our 4th act when Connor Arnold and his band stepped on to the stage. Looking like they’d just stepped off the set of Peaky Blinders, the infectious enthusiasm of the band really upped the energy levels in the venue. With an impressive range of instrumentation too, from Banjo, Acoustic, Bass, Accordion, Drums, Brass… was there anything they couldn’t play? “Heartstrings” was very upbeat and a good rocking tune. “Tongues” also had a great beat with evidence of the accordion playing through, this song also had good ‘breaks’ in the music. With Connor switching from banjo to electric guitar it gave the band a chance to play some “Generic Country Music” in a jam style! Next song “Getting By” started slow before changing up a few gears. Connor graciously gave up the lead vocal duties for a rocking version of “Saw Her Standing There” by his bassist, a worthy addition to the set. He also included a version of “You Got a Friend In Me” a potentially unusual choice, but it did allow the band to play some different instruments, and gave the crowd a chance to sing-along once more! All too soon we were on to the final song of the set, opening with just one guitar and vocals before the band joined in.

Our first sighting of Danny McMahon, playing his first London show off the back of a recent trip to play a festival in San Diego. Just 12 months ago Danny was preparing to attend C2C as a fan, not knowing that by now he’d be playing Country music in his own right. With a band consisting of 2 electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, keyboards, bass and drums/electric drum-kit they've got a real pop-country style. Their first song sounded really familiar, but I don’t think it was a cover. A great way to kick off the set. “Hideaway” was another upbeat track to keep the crowd buzzing. “Broken-hearted” doesn’t sound like the song title that’ll get the party started, but it does have that effect, and with some classic “Ohhh Ohhh Ohhhs” it allows the audience to get involved too! If you were going to pick a C2C 2018 artist to cover during your set you can’t go far wrong with Luke Combs, so including “Hurricane” was great choice. For audience participation his song “Pushing My Hands Down” about his journey into country music certainly had us singing along and there was a good driving force behind the sound. “What It’s Like” a song about C2C and Country Music and Girls and Stuff is another great song – well worth checking out. The final song “Move” was another upbeat number and had the audience dancing along, Undoubtedly one of the best sets from a newcomer for some time.

With time ticking along Hannah Paris took the stage around 10:20. Also her first time in London she also had a full band as backing. Until recently, Hannah always performed as a solo artist, but, after performing with a full band during the festival season last year, she now prefers the fuller sound that the group gives.

Performing “Scared of the Dark” and “You You You” from her debut EP “Short Stories” as well as “L.A.” and her impending new single release “Just You Wait”, Hannah’s powerful country rock vocals make you stop and listen. Considering she only picked up a guitar less than 4 years ago, she is a very accomplished guitarist and singer/ songwriter..

Last on tonight, on a rare performance in London, were Sally Rea Morris and Stephen J Marks, more commonly known as Gasoline and Matches, complete with a full band. Performing all songs from the recently released EP “Fools Gold”, Gasoline and Matches are a band that have to be listened to, mainly relying on strong storytelling lyrics rather than catchy ‘sing-a-long’ choruses.

Stephen is a super talented guitarist, with backing vocals that harmonise perfectly with Sally’s. There was the obligatory Tequila for Sally before performing “Tequila’s A Healer” and the current single “Fool’s Gold”. There is an unmistakable similarity to early Honey Ryder (which is no bad thing)! and we're certainly looking forward to seeing more of Gasoline and Matches this year.

All in all a thoroughly entertaining evening, not bad for a fiver.

February 12th will see the following play a similar event

Roni

Kerri ( The artist formerly known as Kerri Watt now joining the one name brigade by the looks of it!)

Jack & Ella

Sam Coe & The Long Shadows

Emma Swindells

Lars Pluto


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