Say what you like about Big Machine but they know how to throw a party as they return with their C2C tradition of a showcase prior to the actual event with artists that they hope will make an impression over the forthcoming weekend. As always tonight is an intimate show with probably less than seventy folk attending who have done all done their PCR tests within the last 24 hours and have descended down a staircase in London, with an armchair strtegically placed half way in case anyone should get worn out during the journey.
It eventually opens out into a nice cose venue, one wall flanked with booths, another wall is taken up with a huge bar. There is an area against one wall with a small stage and five stools and all the while there are waiters mingling around with drinks and canapes.
A cursory glance around the room shows many familiar faces from around the Americana community and bringing everything together for the evening is our MC Baylen Leonard. Tonight will be in the form of a brief songwriters eound, a little soupcon of what is to come over the forthcoming weekend.
The evening starts with C2C returnee Brett Young - who is outnumbered 3 to 1 by the ladies to his right but has an additional guitarist in an attempt to even things up. He opens with "(How To Be A) Lady" introduced as a song for his daughter about his wife - In this stripped back Brett is absolutely in his element sounding much more honest and heartfelt than the recorded version.
Laci Kaye Booth had a lovely laid back almost jazzy feel to her opener "Used To You", a delightful breathy vocal and with the ambient sound of crickets in the background (don't ask why!) this could almost have been around a camp fire.
Hailing from Alabama Tiera Kennedy was next with a song about her husband, her high school sweetheart, "Found It In You". If Laci Kaye was jazzy then Tiera was a more soulful country - her southern twang perfect for country music, as she regaled us that he was "All that I was looking for". The first round was to close out with Callista Clark who broke the mood of loved up songs with a new song "Give It Back Broken". Callista also was mining a soulful version of country
"Don't you feel guilty?, Don't you feel sad?
Losing the best thing you'll ever have"
Her voice effortlessly rising and falling - this was diamond grade material from the girl in sparkling shoes.
Round 2 would start with Brett enthusing about the quality of his co stars before moving onto to the song that made his life "In Case You Didn't Know" including the word wine stretched over 3 syllables!! Once again the stripped back format letting Brett really shine.
Laci Kaye Booth's second song about about meeting her ex boyfriends best frend, "True Love" was actually a message to her ex about what she had recently heard. Laci Kaye was able to hit falsetto notes you'd normally associate with the birds at a dawn chorus - this drew great applause.
Tiera Kennedy's tribute to her home state "Alabama Nights" was full of little neat lyrical touches.and gave a real sense of where she was from, replete with a sweet soulful voice occasionally delightfully drifting into her Alabame twang. Callista then played her first recorded song "It's Cause I Am" full of attitude and on finishing it was clear that there was a lot of love for Callista in the house - each year C2C throws up a star from Drake White, to Jimmie Allen who seem to dominate the entire weekend - this could be Callista's year.
The evening was to close with one more song from Brett - and he went to releasing his guitar and holding the mic in his hand for "You Didn't", his current single - it was a wonderfully heartfelt way to close out the evening as he told the tale of where he had had fallen in love with someone but they did not feel the same.
It was a great curtain raiser for the weekend ahead - and a great tribute to the Big Machine roster.