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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE


Each year before the Country 2 Country Festival there is a select little gathering held somewhere in London. The venue changes each year, it is normally somewhere that looks quite modest from the outside yet once you wade down corridors of concrete or mysterious staircases you always emerge into a boutique venue. Look around the room and there will normally be some familiar faces, tonight naturally enough Bob Harris is there along with Baylen Leonard who will be our MC this evening.

This gathering of the great and the good is The Big Machine Showcase quite simply the hottest ticket in town - a chance to see stars who could easily fill arenas playing to a smaller crowd than they might have at one of their barbecues!!

What you get is a little two or three song taster, a soupcon of what is to come over the next few days. The artists tonight are a mixture of the relaxed like Carly and Brian who have been here for days while the rest have already played dates around Europe and are shall we say adjusting!

The first two acts up on the night were Graylan James and Shane Profitt. Graylan was casual in a white t shirt taking to the stage as Baylen read out an exceptionally long list of credits including his first number one as a songwriter and a CMA Song Of The Year nomination.

Shane may have been dressed in a camouflage jacket but there was no hiding this man for whom the term "larger than life" was surely coined - a veritable bear of a man!

Graylan's opening song was the unreleased "Truck Stops" which he would go on to helpfully explain was about Truck Stops. it would play on the words, in that the protagonist might just make his truck stop,

"I could throw away the keys.

I know where I'd rather be"

It would get things off to a great start.

Shane opted to open with a song that he released just over a month ago "I Am Who I Am".

With a voice of sheer power Shane was a naturally commanding presence. Each line was delivered with a sheer volume you could not help but be impressed by. Finding time to initiate an audience singalong he seems set for a very successful weekend.

Their respective second rounds raised the bar to another level. Graylan gave us a quick potted history of his journey so far before launching into the song he wrote for Jordan Davis - "Next Thing You Know". As he played Shane would look on intently as if studying and admiring every move. Graylan would fire out his lines with the air of confidence that comes with a hit song, and wore a big smile.

Shane offered us the choice of a new or old song and with the verdict coming in new. he unleashed the excellent "Penny To My Name". With other genres increasingly about consumerism and excess this flipped the whole idea about what being rich means. Having had a low paid day job cutting the grass until relatively recently Shane knows what he is speaking about. when he sings

"I made million dollar memories

When I didn't have a "Penny To My Name"

He has certainly struck gold with that song.

A quick resetting of the stage set us up for a four way Songwriter Round with each performing two songs apart from Carly Pearce who got to perform three - well she is Carly!!!.

Carly's last London show in Islington was one of the finest evenings #TEAMw21 witnessed that year and from this little snapshot she seems set to surpass that this weekend. Accompanied by guitarist Nick she opened with "We Don't Fight Anymore" recorded with Chris Stapleton. Acting out each line with expressive hand gestures, this was an impeccable performance, finishing on a higher pitched "hmmm" the venue all but erupted into appreciative applause.

For her second song Carly would become visibly emotional as she introduced "What He Didn't Do" - the message of "I/You deserve better" is etched in every word and Carly poured her heart into each line in a magnificent performance that was a joy to witness at such close range.

Carly's final tune was from her forthcoming album "Hummingbird", - "My Place" addresses the ability to see how your ex has moved on via the power of social media. If this is the standard of the new album then it is going to be superb, Perfectly picked out lyrics, personal yet at the same time universal - exquisite!

Brian Kelley would be accompanied by two additional guitarists and would be the only performer of the evening who would choose to play standing up. With a bottle of Jack Daniels handily placed on the stage in front of him, he would open with what he would call his most personal song to date, only released 24 hours earlier - "Kiss My Boots".

The words are most pointed and it is easy to see why Brian was eager to share. addressing being bad mouthed

"Like you're friends ain't my friends

And I wouldn't get to hear it all"

Delivered with the right degree of hurt and anger this was an exemplary break up song.

Brian's second song was a new one from the forthcoming album "Acres" saw him saying that although he likes the beach this song was him praising the joys of the land and his wife.

Destined to be a star across the weekend will be Jackson Dean - his two songs were intense and he had a magnetism about him that was hard to take your eyes off. Although his guitar had a strap, it would not be worn, his guitar resting gently in his lap. For his opening song "Fearless", he would sing mainly with his eyes closed as if in another place, The chorus would see a blistering display of vocal power that would cause a "Yes" to be shouted out from the audience such was the impact.

Jackson's second song in contrast would utilise a phrase not seen outside old Hollywood films "Heavens To Betsy" after hearing it mentioned. Jackson would turn the phrase upside down and managed to create a song around someone in heaven communicating with their loved one below via a celestial CB radio.

With a gentle picking style and this time his eyes open, in fact they would dart from side to side at the first mention of the title, this seemingly random idea turned into a most moving song.

His message of

"I'm watching over you until I see you again"

was in the sort of song only the Country / Americana genre could carry off. Building up throughout this performance just made you want to immediately catch more of Jackson - as we say - likely to be a star of the weekend.

Conner Smith had the seemingly unenviable job of following Jackson describing him "as if a fireplace could sing!". Only 23 he would inject a little pace into the evening with "Creek Will Rise", stripped back but retaining a sense of excitement - Connor seemed to relish firing at the lines in quick succession.

Connor would have his second song chosen by Jackson, heard on their recent performances together.

His song written two weeks ago "Faith From A Farmer" was rich in detail and steeped in honesty in both the writing and delivery.

This was a gentle ballad delivered with feeling in a most compelling smouldering performance full of emotion.

It would end with a fist pump with Jackson to acknowledge a job well done and a choice well made

All in all a fantastic evening - Let the festivities begin!!!

Carly Pearce Plays The Main Stage Friday 19:50

Brian Kelley Plays The Main Stage Saturday 18:30

Connor Smith Plays The Main Stage Friday 17:20 Introducing Nashville

Jackson Dean is not on the C2C App but if he plays anywhere go see him!!!

Greylan James Plays

Saturday The Bluebird with Drayton Farley & Zandi Holup 13:30

Sunday The Wayside 12:00

Sunday The Big Entrance 14:20

Shane Profitt Plays

Friday 14:40 The Wayside Stage

Saturday 11:20 The Indigo

Saturday 13:50 The Barrelhouse Stage




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