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Country Music Week Day 5 - Under The Apple Tree - with Eleanor Nelly, Sarah Douga, Sarah Darling &am

The Under The Apple Tree gig in Country Music Week is always to be looked forward to, there' will always be something new, and certainly a good evenings entertainment in the presence of fellow music lovers. The only complaint of the evening could would have to be levelled at the Bush Hall chair stackers who obviously on a day off from one of our budget airlines tried to squeeze in as many rows regardless of actual leg space between them but that small gripe aside it was to be a wonderful evening, which notably had a backing track of UK artists running between acts so the audience subliminally got to hear the likes of Devon Mayson, Laura Oakes and er The Wandering Hearts during the turnarounds.

As ever the evening was hosted by Bob Harris who had some pertinent facts to impart about the importance of new artists name checking artists from the past. It seemed to be inspired in part by people being unaware of the mighty Lyle Lovett on the recent C2C 2019 announcements. There was a similar reaction to the addition of Emmylou Harris and Marty Stuart in previous years - as if people did not realise that the C in C2C stands for Country.

At the very first UTAT gathering at Cadogan Hall, Bob wheeled out a very shy girl with a set that included a few Taylor Swift covers, twelve months later Catherine McGrath was signed to a major and was support act to just about every visiting US artist to London - who is to say such a future does not lay ahead for Eleanor Nelly tonights raw diamond unearthed at Chris Difford's songwriting retreat?

Aged just 17 and based in Liverpool she was driven to the gig by her Mum who had only returned from holiday the previous day. She opened with "Polaroid" her excellent debut single, which had a distinct guitar line, and throughout which Eleanor kept her eyes resolutely shut. For the second song the slower paced "The Best Is Yet To Come" she did briefly open her eyes for a few seconds but then went back into the zone to complete her performance. She really relaxed on the final song when joined by Gregor Phipps from Deacon Blue looking like a younger Nick Lowe, when they ran through their joint composition, the rocking "Into The Sun?" created at the aforementioned Chris Difford retreat..With the workload divided she visibly grew in confidence and really seemed to relax and enjoy her final number.

Bob's Introduction to Sara Douga focused on the marvelous listener response received each time he played one of her tracks.and as she started it was easy to see why. She opened "Life Is A Dance", a piece of classic country, with a voice rich and sounding like it should come from someone many years older. Her choice of a cover was an absolute classic whether you came to it via Kris Kristofferson, John Holt or in Sara's case Lynn Anderson, "Help Me Make It Through The Night" will never let you down and this version was superb. The came a truly dramatic piece of theatre, introduced as being her life story, "Little Orphan Child" was a song so absorbing you wanted to hit live pause and rewind to make sure you were hearing it correctly. It seemed to cover her own childhood right through to life with her own children, at times in heartbreaking detail. Her final song was a sort of duet with Gregor Phipps, an uptempo rocker called "I Hate Lying" where they shared the chorus while not singing the same words.

At last the reason for the glorious English summer has been revealed, Sarah Darling spent most of the summer over here performing and writing songs and so naturally brought a little Nashville weather with her! What a summer it must have been as she came bearing a huge batch of new material for an album that promises to be a blend of US and UK country. The opening song "I Would Be There For You" had some quite punchy wordplay while "Fire" seemed a more folky affair.

With only a cajon player and an acoustic guitarist as backup, it was hard to tell how these songs might eventually sound but they all seemed worthy contenders for the new record. The new songs all came with a lot of words to take in immediately, "Shine" was another great example of that with a chorus that just seemed to tumble from Sarah's lips. Nods to the past were few and far between, such was her excitement to get this new material aired, "Where Cowboys Ride" was one of the exceptions and it saw Sara Douga return to the stage for backing vocal duties. There was a distinct dance vibe occurring during "Enjoy The Ride" while the immediate stand out song of the set was "A Little Bit Of Rain" a cautionary country tale co written with long time collaborator, friend and #TEAMw21 favourite Jenn Bostic.

There were also to be a singalong in the shape of "That's Not My California" which was a nice bit of country rock, before we started to enter the home straight of the set with her love affair to Paris, "Montemartre". Reviewers often say an artist lit up a room, however for Sarah this was literally true as she came complete with an illuminated dress, which was fitting for the final new song of the night "Light It Up". With "Halley's Comet" to close, it was a beautiful way to start the campaign for the new album.

During country Music Week a year ago, The Wandering Hearts were supporting Marty Stuart at Cadogan Hall, this year, they are headlining at Bush Hall with the news that they will be Bob Harris's "Emerging Artist" nomination at this years Britsh AMA Awards. It seems slightly strange that an emerging artist can have the whole of Bush Hall singing along to every word of their songs but I guess it is a question of perspectives, for us the Wandering Hearts emerged at C2C 2017 and especially at the post C2C gig with Brothers Osbourne at Dingwalls.

Tonight's show gets off to a storming start with "Fire and Water", an immediate assault on the senses, as the four vocals hit you along with the thumping kick drum. The pace did not slacken through the opening songs "Heartbreak Hotel" followed by Bush Hall totally erupting into a mass singalong for "Wish I Could" which was damned good fun for the audience and it is hard not to enjoy the sheer force of it hitting you.

The pace had to give eventually and a slowing of the mood for "If I Fall" brought the ladies of the band to the fore., as did the next songs "Nobody's Fool" from their debut EP where Tara and Chess swapped verses. There was time for a new song "Till The Day I Die" which contains the trademark harmonies we've come to love. The Wandering Hearts have a sense of the theatrical whether it comes by building up the sound in a song like "Wild Silence" or the moment they go off microphone and reorganise their stage set up for "Burning Bridges". Bush Hall was an absolute perfect venue for this and the sound they produced was so pure and clear it was a privilege to witness.

The set closed with "Laid In The Ground" and "Rattle" bringing the show to a spectacular end. They will be back in November ( as will we ) for a full length show at the same venue. which might be your last chance to see them before they "Emerge!"



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