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  • Words Colin Jones Pictures Andy Webb

Country Music Week Day 1 - Songwriters Round with Kassi Ashton, Tenille Townes, Ashley Campbell, Chr


The evening commenced with Bob Harris announcing the line-up for C2C 2019, always something guaranteed to get the packed crowd talking ahead of eagerly anticipated main event kicking off Country Music Week

With a now familiar seating/playing arrangement for these songwriter rounds, the evening began with the first of two newcomers to London, Kassi Ashton. On her first number, she talked about the small town where she grew up, before launching into “California, Missouri”. With faultless vocals and with James Black on accompanying guitar, for me, Kassi drew comparisons with Amy Winehouse (which isn’t a bad thing)! On her other rounds she performed ”Lie To Me” and “Hopeless” both songs being about relationship break up’s. The Natalie Hemby/Luke Dick/Rosie Golan written “Taxidermy” followed, before finishing with another break up song “The Straw”. She told us it was a co-write with Lori McKenna, after Lori had asked Kassi about the break up, and Kassie replied “The straw that broke the back was………” proving how a throwaway line can be turned into a powerful song. Kassi kept the audience entertained throughout, with her humorous stories about her life, and, although not ‘pure country’, her vocal performance certainly made you take notice.

Next up on the rounds was another newcomer and first time visitor to London, Tenille Townes. From Alberta Canada, Tenille is another artist with powerful vocals and heartfelt lyrics. Opening with the up-tempo “Where You Are”, before the highly emotional “Jersey On The Wall” (a song about five kids killed in a car crash), which, during the performance, you could see the struggle she had to keep her composure. The more rocky “White Horse” followed, then a song about her Grandmother, “When I Meet My Maker”. She ended her round with the popular “Somebody’s Daughter”, a song which is getting a lot of radio airplay recently. Tenille must be better at relationships than most young girls her age, as there were no ‘Relationship/Break-up’ songs in her rounds! Tenille is another act, who I wouldn’t class as ‘pure country’, but will definitely be one to watch purely on the strength of her song writing.

Third in the round was Ashley Campbell, who is now becoming a frequent visitor to these shores. She talked about her first visit to the UK, when she was eight years old, before opening with “Better Boyfriend”. Next the familiar relationship break-up theme returned with “Wish I Wanted To”, a song about dating again, before the catchy crowd pleaser “Looks Like Time (Kicked Your Ass)”. Ashley played her trademark banjo on her fourth number “Gentle On My Mind”, before finishing off her round with the emotionally powerful “Remembering”, a truly heartfelt song about the times spent with her Father. As always with Ashley, you know what you are going to get. Comical numbers, or upbeat numbers coupled with pure emotion, and tonight Ashley didn’t let us down.

Last in the rounds was Chris DeSteffano, another fairly unknown name, but with an impressive songwriting CV. He did say he had visited London before, when he was ten years old, and only on a flight stopover for six hours! With backing vocal help from Ashley on most of his numbers, he kicked off with the Carrie Underwood hit “The Champion” covering the “Ludacris” rap verse himself, certainly not one for the country music purists! On his next round he was joined by the recently revealed C2C line-up act, Chase Rice, to cover Chase’s “Eyes On You”, a beautiful slow moving ballad. After telling everyone how it took fifteen years to become an overnight success, with the next number, he performed Dan and Shay’s “From The Ground Up”, before bringing on another guest, Catherine McGrath, to the stage, who performed “Just In Case”. On his next round, he covered “Wide Open”, which is a song about his family, (he said he doesn’t do ‘break-up’ songs), and gave him a fantastic chance to show off his vocal range and control. He finished his round (and the evening), with another Carrie Underwood hit “Something In The Water” interspersed with “Amazing Grace” which got the whole crowd joining in. A fantastic way to end to the evening.

A great night of top quality singers, showcasing their songwriting skills to an exceptionally appreciative and attentive audience, which kicked off Country Music Week in style. But did it push the boundaries’ of Country Music a little too far?

#TenilleTownes #AshleyCambell #ChrisDeStaffano #KassiAshton