The Shires – My Universe – Album Review
My Universe is a compelling album full of melodious truth-telling tunes that will captivate its audience and is not to be ignored.
It seems like only yesterday that I stood in a tiny room at The Gibson Guitar Studios in London, for an industry showcase performance from The Shires, knowing only two songs. Since then, their career has grown rather rapidly – and deservedly so. With a top ten charting debut album to boast about and a debut at The Grand Ole Opry, things seem to have gone from strength to strength for The Shires and I wonder how they have had time to breathe, let alone release a second album. This just goes to show the hard work and effort that Ben and Crissie – who make up The Shires – have put into their career.
As a songwriter on the scene for a fair few years, it is about time Ben Earle got the recognition he deserves, and partnering up with Crissie Rhodes may just have been about the smartest decision he ever made. The two, who were practically strangers when The Shires first formed, have become close friends, travelled the world together, been there for life changing experiences in their personal lives – such as Ben becoming a dad – and have gained the title of UK Country’s favourite duo.
With the huge success of debut album Brave – could this album in fact be topped, and in such a short space of time? Well, I will leave that for you to decide but I can certainly lend my opinion. That being said – I just cannot decide which is better, but what I can tell you is the albums are at the very least on a par with each other. I think hardcore Shires fans will always hold more of a soft spot for Brave because it meant so much to all of us in its entirety – we travelled with that album – in some ways literally. Every song on Brave has a special meaning. We watched the songs grow, watched them find a new audience and we connected with the songs and sang every word to every song for such a ridiculous number of times, that they have almost become a part of us.
However, My Universe is a fantastic album and no fan will be left displeased. What it offers us is not only new songs but it also delivers a sense of who The Shires are now, sonically and lyrically, and shows how much they have grown in confidence. Many of the songs on Brave were already written by Ben prior to forming The Shires, whereas on My Universe, with more input from Crissie, we see more of her songwriting talent and how they connect and write now as a duo.
Known best for their epic ballads, My Universe certainly does not disappoint in that area – the album has plenty of tear jerking tunes to pull at those heart strings! Songs such as Daddy’s Little Girl and Everything You Never Gave, for example – both songs being about their fathers. Daddy’s Little Girl – written by Crissie about her late father, invites us into Crissie’s world a bit more and we get to know her on a much more Intimate level. This song is truly stunning with lyrics that break your heart and it bleeds emotion. The melody’s simplicity makes the song all the more painfully beautiful. The song brings us into the innocence of childhood and the relationship and love between father and daughter. Being a song personal to Crissie, she takes the lead solely on this song and you can hear the emotion in her voice.
Everything You Never Gave – this is Ben’s turn to dedicate a song to his father. A powerful, sensitive, slow-tempo song with heart-rending lyrics about the absence of fatherhood. Ben creates positivity in this song though, by using his father’s mistakes as a lesson to be a better man/dad himself. With Ben recently being a father, there is no doubt what inspired the song to begin with.
Other ballads, such as Common Language, Desperate, Other People’s Things and Naked, all take us back to what The Shires do best. Sonically, Desperate is very similar to I Just Wanna Love You and Brave, however the chorus holds enough strength on its own to make this a stunning stand-out song. Common Language has a simple yet charming chorus and stays quite consistent throughout, but in a very gratifying way. Other People’s Things is also a song that fans who went to their last headline tour were eager to hear in studio form. A simple piano ballad with meaningful lyrics about objects in your life that mean a lot to you, but are just other people’s things to someone else.
There are few up-beat tracks on this album but the ones that are, are very catchy and fun! Beats To Your Rhythm was a wise choice as the first single, in my opinion – not only is it an up-beat fun track, but it has a strong Country pop sound, with easy sing-along lyrics.
Not Even Drunk Right Now is the ‘Friday Night’ song of the album. I feel this song was aimed at the US audience, as a lot of the popular Country songs in America are the up-beat drinking ones. This is a good song, though! It does have a good memorable chorus that you will want to sing out loud with friends. I really enjoyed it live!
My Universe was a last minute addition to the album. With its recent video release, raising awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, the song speaks volumes. It will probably mean a lot to people in many different ways, in the same way that Brave did.
Drive – was the song that I was most excited to hear in a studio version. Co-written with Kip Moore, The Shires performed this song on their last headline tour and it became an instant favourite amongst fans. The studio version is just as good. You can hear the Kip element to this song. I think this is likely my favourite off the album. It has such a US Country feel to the chorus and should certainly be considered as a single if that’s not already in the works.
Save Me – is a song about how you see yourself and the personal fears and flaws only you see – but how you are loved anyway for who you are. Quite a nice message, not too different from Naked, both songs being songs which a lot of people will relate to. It has a great chorus, too – powerful and melodious.
A Thousand Hallelujahs – The most Country sounding song on the album, although , it isn’t a religious song as you might think. The intro reminds me slightly of Keith Urban’s music. This is the anthem of the album, especially with the gospel choir backing the chorus. It’s another song that I think is meant to be an American/UK crossover song. It is fun and catchy in the best way, one of those songs you can imagine being played during the end credits of a happy ending romantic film.
So, I am sure that amongst the Country community, there will be a lot of discussion as to whether this album will go to Number One, like Ward Thomas’ did. As much as I love Ward Thomas – I am pleased for them and think they deserve it – their chart success did seem to come out of nowhere. I would like to think UK Country fans will also support My Universe by The Shires, so that it will top the chart, too. Goodness knows, they deserve it and have put in the hard work – I doubt they have had a day off since their first ever single.
The Shires haven’t even stopped touring – they have been on the road with Sir Tom Jones across the UK and overseas with Little Big Town. In terms of album strength, the two duos cannot be compared. They may both be Country but are totally different as artists. I certainly think The Shires are more commercial than Ward Thomas, but they are equally brilliant in their own unique way.
I reccomend My Universe for Country fans and non Country fans. Overall, It is a compelling album full of melodious truth-telling tunes that will captivate its audience and is not to be ignored.
My Universe is due to be released 30th September and can be pre ordered here
Listen to My Universe by The Shires on @AppleMusic.
The Shires are also on tour this winter with US star Canaan Smith as support. This is a tour not to be missed. Information and tickets available here: