With Country Music Week having started with a songwriters Round it seemed only apt for it to be bookended by another one, this time presented by the Bluebird Cafe. The names at first glance may not have had the initial allure as those that graced Cadogan Hall earlier in the week but there was plenty of entertainment to be had. We'd been lured by the prospect of a second viewing of Emily Hackett, as well as by promising feedback on the afternoon performance of Tenille Arts. The main difference between the 2 sessions was that one had been with artists who had spent a number of days together and were familiar with each other songs whereas tonight although the artists knew of each other there seemed to be considerably less interaction. With 2 Canadians and an Australian making up three quarters of the line up it was also something of a cosmopolitan line up.
It was Phil Barton who was to be our host, dressed in a fantastically loud Union Jack jacket, which would have been over the top at a Royal wedding, which was making its own second Country Music Week appearance having previously been sported by JT Harding a few years earlier.
Phil Barton had the job of kicking things off, setting the scene of what the Bluebird is like and who has performed there. Starting with a Lori McKenna co write set the bar pretty high and having it recorded by the Eli Young Band only added to that. It had a sub Tom Pettyish feel to it and saw Phil taking a risk by going for audience participation on the opening song ( always a dangerous thing) but in the end it all worked out well.
Second in the round was another chance to see Emily Hackett, she had wowed us at Colours earlier in the week and to see her again was too good a chance to pass up. This time seated and with no technical gremlins affecting her, her performance was even better for it. Opening with "Once In A While" her voice only sounded more pure and heartfelt than first time round. The song about an ex boyfriend would start something of a theme. Tenille Arts making her second performance of the day at the same venue also chose to write about an ex - "Nothing To See Here". A similar subject but a different no less entertaining performance with Tenille powering her vocal out across Bush Hall just having the closing title as a faint whisper. To close the round and joining the world of one named artists was Tebey, fresh from some European dates with Scotty McCreery. Starting with one of his biggest hits "Somebody Else Will" a Number 1 hit for Justin Moore in 2017, he was certainly the loudest and most expressive guitar player on the night.
Round 2 stated with Phil playing a song recorded by Sara Evans and Issac Slade of the Fray, with Emily being brought in to provide additional vocals on the chorus on "I Can't Stop Loving You" what sounded like a big pop hit full of power chords and begging for the big production to go around it. Emily moved from backing vocalist to lead singer for her second contribution "Gave HIm Away", again sounding just that little more heartfelt than earlier in the week in a superb version of the song about the perils of dating your best friend. Tenille followed also with a song about dating her best friend after a break up, it seems to be something that brings out the best in songwriters, as "Right Guy Wrong Time" was another great song, with Tenille this time delivering a much softer contemplative vocal. Tebey initially joked that his next song was about dating his best friend after a break up, he then revealed his Norwich origins, Who's Gonna Love You", was a lovely self deprecating song detailing his "failings" that was a number one in Canada.
The rounds were somewhat flying past, Phil was able to drop another name in the shape of Drake White for "Take Me As I Am" was his next effort If truth be told Phil's vocal was never going to match Drake's but he encouraged another audience piece of backing vocal and Tebey provided a little scat solo, and that carried the song through on good humour alone. Emily's next contribution "This Is My Version Of A Love Song" her somewhat backhanded fulfilment of a request from her husband for a love song, complete with a more expressive style of guitar plying and a more forceful vocal, this was again attention grabbing. For Tenille her next contribution was a request, "Cold Feet", the one song of the night not written by the artist but was used by Tenille to highlight the importance of being able to hear a good song. This was a lovely bit of storytelling beautifully sold by Tenille's delivery. When Tebey announced his next song was one of a few written for One Direction it was hard to know how to react. When performed solo though "They Don't Know About Us" could easily pass as a country song and certainly sounded the better for being separated from swathes of boy band over production.
Round Four starting with Phil revealing his own UK origins as coming from Uxbridge, before explaining how "Why Baby Why" ended up going viral with 68 million views. In many ways this far suited Phil's performing range and was his best singing performance of the night. Emily's teenage advice song "Josie", about not growing up to fast, complete with its internal rhyme of "Jane Austen" and "Lost in", retained its impact of earlier in the week. If anything the performance was almost more intense with the vocals almost spat out at one point in a powerful performance. Tenille's fourth contribution was her US debut single, used in the tv show The Bachelor. The song "I Hate This" covered dealing with a break up and was quite possibly the vocal performance of the night, on an ever rising chorus. For Tebey this meant a change in his planned song such was the quality of songs being laid down, and he duly pulled out a cracker with "The Good Ones", and with his best song came his best performance of the night.
Phil's next contribution was the somewhat bizarre "It's A Cowboy's Duty To Be Checking Out The Booty", used in a movie about Mexican drug cartels, great fun but not necessarily a classic. Moving swiftly on Emily Hackett brought out another of her great songs, her first single "Nostalgia", retaining little snippets of her favourite songs in a nostalgic look back before she closes out the song. Tenille Arts gave a second outing to a song only premiered earlier in the day, "The Butterfly Effect" which will be on Tenille's next album due in early 2020. Some songs have an immediate effect and this one was instantly likeable to the point you wanted to hear it again immediately. For Tebey it was a chance to sing "Denim On Denim", one of his biggest songs ( co written with Kelly Archer ) streamed over 9 million times.
Such was the pace that each round was progressing at, there was time for a sixth round, Phil closed out his contributions with a number one song recorded by Lee Brice, "Woman Like You". Phil was an undoubted showman and made for great company as our host. Our last glimpse of Emily Hackett was with a new song "How The Hell Did I Get You?", with some snappy lyrics and a beautiful delivery - she hopes to be back soon and we certainly can't wait. Tenille Arts first day in London had consisted of 2 shows in one day, and her closing song was her latest single "Somebody Like That", a quality upbeat uptempo pop country number to close out on. The job of closing out the whole evening and indeed the whole of Country Music Week fell to Tebey, and he decided to end on one of the very songs that had started it all off for him back in 2012, "Somewhere In The Country", a cheery number that sent everyone off into the night with a smile on their face.
A great evening to close out a rich and varied week of entertainment.