Archive of ‘music’ category

Homegrown Tour ~ The Shires and Ward Thomas

I’m a big fan of the current crop of UK country acts, and top of the ever-growing pile are Ward Thomas and The Shires. These are two bands that have got a lot of airplay on Radio 2 recently, and I was lucky enough to see The Shires earlier this year at The Water Rats in London, and then I saw Ward Thomas in Hyde Park in September. When I found out that they were touring together, I was desperate to go, and I was lucky enough to get some tickets. I went with Hannah, Jen and Anna; Hannah came with me to The Shires in July, and Anna saw Ward Thomas in September, but Jen didn’t really know much about either band. As it was, everyone had a fabulous time, and we even got to meet the bands!

We tried a lot to get a decent selfie of the four of us, and it wasn’t easy! I think this was the best of a bad bunch, so I made it black and white to give us a helping hand! Now that I have a selfie stick, bad selfies are a thing of the past!

My gig photos aren’t great, because my camera isn’t great, but I managed to take a few this time, so I wanted to include them! The support band we saw were Taylor and Marie, a folk/country duo who have a really lovely sound. They started with a rendition of Bad Moon Rising, which is one of my favourite songs, so it was great to hear a new spin on it. They also played a song called I Got Moved, which I loved! It’s a shame it’s not their EP, Tilt the Moon, because I want to listen to it again!

Ward Thomas came on next, and they are just the cutest girls ever. They are so fun to watch; aside from their fantastic music, they just look as though they are having so much fun on stage, and they really engage the crowd. Their album, From Where I Stand, is just fantastic, and I have barely stopped listening to it this week! They released the single, Push for the Stride, earlier in the year, and it’s a really stompy, fun, country tune, but the album is full of so much more; catchy songs you can dance to, and really beautiful songs that showcase the sisters’ fabulous harmonies. They did a really full set, even including a cover of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, during which they warned us that they would attempt the rap (and they weren’t half bad!). One of my absolute favourite songs off the album is Way Back When, their latest single, and when they finished it off by mashing it up with Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson, I was amazed – it was so good!

The Shires finished the night, with a set that seemed a bit short by my standards! Maybe I was just spoilt by having heard them sing a lot of songs at their gig in July, but I wanted more! They are really lovely, and they just sound so good together! I am still waiting patiently for their album (January, apparently), but they were selling copies of their new EP, The Green Note, so I bought that (and got it signed!), and that will just have to do for now. They sang their two singles, Nashville Grey Skies and Tonight, both of which I adore, and they also sang their cover that they recorded for the Radio 2 Sounds of the 80s song, Islands in the Stream. I had been waiting for ages to actually hear it played on the radio, and then I finally heard it a couple of weeks ago, but hearing it live was amazing of course.

The two bands came out at the end to duet on Leaving Without Your Love, a cover of the Striking Matches song. It’s not a song I’m that familiar with, but I watched the video they recorded of them singing it a few weeks ago, so I knew it would be the one that they’d sing together, and it’s a great song. They are all just amazing, and to be honest, I’m gutted that the gig is over. I want to go again!

As I mentioned, we got to meet the bands afterwards, and I got my Shires EP signed. I already have the Ward Thomas album, and obviously I didn’t have it with me, so I couldn’t get that signed, but I did get a photo with them, and I had a little chat with Catherine, and told her how much I had loved the Way Back When/Man in the Mirror mash up. I also mentioned to Ben and Crissie from The Shires that I am a bit of a Twitter stalker fan, and he asked what my Twitter name was, and his face suggested that he recognised it when I told him! Argh!

I really did have a fabulous evening, and because it was the night before my birthday, it was a lovely pre-birthday treat!


* Two of the tickets that we used for the Homegrown Tour gig were provided free of charge for review purposes. All reviews on Is That You Darling are fair and unbiased.

The Shires at The Water Rats

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see The Shires in London. Sitting on Twitter one evening, I saw that Bob Harris had tweeted a link to their UK tour, and I immediately took a look. Having ascertained that they were playing a London date, I booked tickets immediately. I didn’t even check that my friend Hannah was free to come, I just thought that I had to have tickets straightaway! As it turned out, Hannah was free as a bird, and we went along at the end of July.

We decided to have a day off work and spend the day in London first, and I took full advantage to go on a Book Bench quest! After we had seen all of the benches that we could find in the area, we were struggling to decide what to do, so we decided to head over the river and visit Tate Modern. I’ve been a couple of times before, but Hannah wasn’t sure that she had been, so in lieu of any other ideas, that’s what we did.

I can’t honestly say that I know an awful lot about modern art. I know what I like – Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse – but I get overwhelmed by most of the art on display at somewhere like Tate Modern. I prefer an exhibition of carefully curated pieces, rather than being left to my own devices to browse. But it was a fun afternoon, and it gave me the opportunity to trot out the anecdote that I visited before it was officially open (and before the Queen), back in 2000.


Look, I’m a bloger – I took a photo in Starbucks! I never, ever go in Starbucks. Not for moral reasons, just because I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t really enjoy paying over the odds for an average cup of tea. But we had some time to waste, so I had a cold drink (too much orange, in my opinion), and some fruit toast. I’m always happy to see jam from Tiptree on my plate!

I’ve never been to The Water Rats, but my friend V, who used to go to a lot of gigs in London, had told me that it was quite small. She wasn’t exaggerating; it’s a pub with a back room, and it wasn’t very big at all! It was also the hottest room in the entire world; seriously sweaty and disgusting!

Before The Shires played, they had two support acts. Gary Quinn and Frankie Davis are both country artists, and they played a few songs each. They were both amazing, and I’ve been listening to them on Spotify since I saw them! I really, really liked Frankie Davis, and I’m waiting patiently for her album to come out, as she sang a couple of songs that I thought were really good.

But of course, we were there to see The Shires, and they finally came on. The Shires are Crissie and Ben, and it should be noted that they are both beautiful people. But it’s their music that makes me love them, and I wasn’t at all disappointed; they sang their first single, Nashville Grey Skies, which I have been playing over and over and over for months! They did a really long set, and I think they must have sung most of the songs from their forthcoming album. Their latest single, Tonight, is another great one, and it’s being played all over Radio 2 at the moment! The crowd were divided in two (and Ben looked right at me when he divided – swoon), and both halves had to sing along to different parts. If you’re at all interested, some kindly soul has uploaded the performance to YouTube; I keep watching it because it’s so great!

I tried to take a few photos, but I had forgotten my camera, and sadly my phone wasn’t up to the job. After a couple of attempts, I gave it up as a bad job, and just decided to enjoy the music. I’m now (im)patiently waiting for The Shires to release their album; after hearing so much good stuff at the gig, I want to be able to listen to it over and over!

I bought a t-shirt while I was at the gig, because I had seen some other girls wearing them and was jealous! You can’t be a super-fan without a band tee! I have already worn it a few times, but I’ll definitely be wearing it in November, because I’m going to see The Shires again! This time they are doing a joint tour with Ward Thomas, who are another UK country music duo, and whose album I adore. I think there are still tickets available, and they are all over the country, so book some. You won’t be disappointed, I promise!

Now Listening ~ The Shires

It’s not often I talk directly about music on this here blog. It’s not because I don’t love music, because, of course I do. I’ve written before about my evolving music tastes (something I was thinking about earlier as I listened to a Smiths song – something my fifteen-year-old self would never have done!), the simple pleasure of listening to a favourite song and singing along very loud, and the ten best solo Spice Girls singles.

All of that preamble is a way of saying that sometimes I like to write about music, when I find something I truly, truly love, and want to share with the world. Or at least the readers of this blog. And that’s what I am doing today, but I’ll stop short of pretending that I’m going to make a regular series out of it, because I’m rubbish at making a regular series out of anything.

First up, we have The Shires. I heard them on Bob Harris Country (how far into a post did you think we were going to get before I mentioned Radio 2?), and since them their song Nashville Grey Skies has obviously been added to the BBC playlist, because it’s getting an awful lot of airtime. I also just listened to it three times in a row on Spotify. I’m obsessed!

The Shires are a British band, and they are actually the first ever UK country act to be signed to a major Nashville label. If you have a listen to their song, you’ll understand why. They are just about to record their debut album in Nashville, and I can’t wait. On the basis of Nashville Grey Skies, I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.

If you want to take a listen to The Shires on Bob Harris Country, you can do so here. And if you’re a country fan and you’re not already listening to Bob Harris on a regular basis, you’re missing out. He’s my second favourite Radio 2 DJ.

Music, Music Everywhere

This is one of those silly blog posts that is going to seem as though I have been paid to write it, because I’m going to gush, but I really haven’t (as far as I know, the BBC don’t go in for paying bloggers to gush).

I’m a big radio listener. I always have been really; I grew up in a house where the radio was always on. My mum had a radio in the kitchen from as far back as I can remember, and it was always tuned to Radio 2. At least, it was in my living memory. When I was a teenager, I went through a phase of thinking that Radio 2 was really uncool, because they never seemed to play any music that had been produced in recent memory. That phase didn’t last particularly long, because I came to realise that the joy of Radio 2 is that they play all sorts. It’s true that you’re less likely to find a chart hit there than you are on Radio 1, or a commercial radio station, but they do play current music, just as long as it’s good current music. No Robin Thicke here, no sirree. Additionally, you get to hear all the oldies that you adore.

Anyway, the long and short of all of this is that I still listen to a lot of radio. My station of choice is still Radio 2, but there’s often some Radio 4 or Five Live in there for good measure (I even listen to the World Service if I’m awake very late). I listen on the DAB radio in the kitchen, I listen through the television, and I listen through my tablet. When I was younger, I used to hate it when you would hear a song that you loved, and you’d wait until the end of the song to hear what it was called, and the DJ wouldn’t say it. So frustrating!

This is why I am now completely enamoured with the Playlister function on the BBC iPlayer Radio app. (And this is where it starts to sound like a sponsored post!) While you’re listening to the radio through the app, if you hear a song that you love, you can click a little button, and the song is added to your own personal Playlister. When you’re ready, you can export this list to Spotify, YouTube or Deezer, and listen to your heart’s content. I’m listening to my playlist on Spotify now; I have the likes of Johnny Cash, Mike Oldfield, Lindisfarne, and Van Morrison on my list, not to mention the latest John Legend song, which I adore. If you have any inclination to do so, you can check out my playlist here.

The Playlister function is honestly one of my favourite things ever. I’m fairly easily pleased.

Evolving Music Tastes

The other day I heard One Love on the radio, and as I was happily singing along, I realised that, had you asked me a few years ago if I liked Bob Marley, or indeed reggae music, I would probably have said no. That got me thinking about how my music taste has changed and evolved as I have got older.

Maybe it’s a case of trying to stay below the radar when I was younger. At school, it was safer to profess a love of mainstream chart music rather than step outside of the norm and tell everyone that you were a big fan of reggae, or swing, or world music, for example. I remember being a geography class once, where the teacher was asking us to name all fifty states of the USA. He was giving us clues for the ones we were missing, and when he said “It’s a Bee Gees song,” I responded with “Massachusetts.” Now, I wasn’t a huge Bee Gees fan, but I knew the answer, and I got teased relentlessly for it. People assumed that I loved Bee Gees, and because they weren’t cool, I got some unwanted attention!

Nowadays, I don’t care if people know that I listen to the Bee Gees (I don’t, very much, as it happens). My Spotify account is linked to my Facebook account, so anything I listen to on there is shown on my Facebook profile. This means that my friends can see when I am listening to a cooler band, like Haim or Bastille, but they can also see when I am listening to Let Loose or Blue. I have no qualms about this!

But as well as not wanting to stand out as being too different at school, I genuinely do think that my music tastes have changed. As much as I still like to listen to pop music as I did in my teens, I now have a greater appreciation for different types of music. I have already mentioned reggae, but I also enjoy listening to country and folk, and I don’t think my fifteen-year-old self would necessarily believe you if you told her that. These days I rarely know what the number one song is; a big change from my teenage years when I would listen to the charts religiously on a Sunday afternoon. I now much prefer to listen to old music, whether it’s The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan or Tears for Fears. Still not particularly cool, maybe, but certainly very enjoyable for me!

I think more than anything, it’s because, as a proper grown up (apparently), I am willing to try things more readily than I was before. I won’t know I don’t like it unless I give it a try, and I could be missing out on something incredible!

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