This morning on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show, presenter Chris Evans was joined by singer-songwriter Ricky Ross to announce the return of the pop-up digital radio service, BBC Radio 2 Country.
Now in its third year, the DAB service will broadcast from Thursday 9 to Sunday 12 March (midday – midnight) and will feature special broadcasts live from the C2C: Country To Country festival at The O2 in London, plus a wealth of country music-inspired programming.
The BBC will also be celebrating country music in March with two BBC Four documentaries: The Shires: New Country, and Rich Hall On Country (working title).
The Radio 2 Country pop-up kicks-off on Thursday with Welcome To BBC Radio 2 Country With Bob Harris (midday-1pm) – in which Radio 2’s face and voice of country music previews what listeners can expect to hear across the service. Country music specialist Baylen Leonard then takes a look at what the C2C festival has lined up in Celebrating C2C.
Highlights in the BBC Radio 2 Country schedule include Alison Krauss: Bluegrass And beyond, in which the multi-Grammy Award winner chooses an hour of her favourite tracks, and Country Pickers, which sees singer-songwriter Marty Stuart pay tribute to country’s greatest musicians. There will be a celebration of the original mavericks and outlaws of country music in Patrick Kielty’s Country Outlaws, and a look at the sometimes surprising links between country music and soul, R&B and reggae with Trevor Nelson in When Country Meets Soul.
The Shires’ Country Playlist will see the UK duo present a show full of their favourite country tracks, and in Reba’s Gospel Hour the country music superstar Reba McEntire shares her love of gospel music. Paul Sexton takes listeners on a tour of Country’s World of Trouble, reliving some of the genre’s most controversial moments, and Mark Radcliffe curates a music special exploring the song writing genius and widespread influence of Hank Williams in the hour-long Thanks Hank.
On Friday 9 March, presenters Bob Harris and Jo Whiley introduce music from the C2C: Country To Country festival at The O2 in London (6-11pm). Some of the world’s hottest country acts take to the main stage, and listeners can hear their performances, plus behind-the-scenes action, live on BBC Radio 2 Country (and simulcast on BBC Radio 2 from 8pm). Baylen Leonard joins Bob at the festival on Saturday 11 March (4 – 11pm), with Paul Sexton joining him on the final day (12 March, 4-11pm). Some of the acts taking to the C2C stage this year include multi-million selling artist Brad Paisley; genre defying country rock group the Zac Brown Band; Country Music Awards New Artist 2016 Maren Morris and traditional country royalty Marty Stuart. Plus Chris Young, Jennifer Nettles, Brothers Osborne, Cam, Darius Rucker, Dan & Shay and Hunter Hayes.
Further special programming on the Radio 2 Country pop-up service comes from Vanessa Feltz as she celebrates the greatest women of country in Vanessa’s Country Gals, and Sara Cox discovers the biggest country names of the decade in Country Sounds Of The 80s. Comedian and country music lover, Susan Calman guides listeners through The Comedy of Country, and Colin Murray looks at country music’s obsession with the bottle in Liquor In The Lyrics, with an hour of songs inspired by whisky, bourbon and beer.
Other presenters broadcasting on BBC Radio 2 Country include BBC Scotland’s Ricky Ross, American DJ Storme Warren and Radio 2 presenters Leo Green, Ken Bruce, Steve Wright and Simon Mayo.
Also this year, in Chris Country on Radio 2, Radio 2 Country welcomes Chris Stevens to the service – the voice of the UK-based DAB radio station dedicated to playing country music.
Lewis Carnie, Head of BBC Radio 2, says: “Radio 2 thrives on the diversity of its musical output and as country music is so popular with our listeners, we’re excited to be bringing back the pop-up DAB. This digital service will showcase the very best the genre has to offer; both through the extensive live coverage from C2C, and the abundance of distinctive programming exploring various aspects of country music.”
BBC Radio 2 Country can be listened to on digital radio, online at the Radio 2 website and on the BBC iPlayer Radio app. To receive BBC Radio 2 Country, listeners can retune their digital radio on Wednesday 8 March by pressing ‘autotune’ or ‘autoscan’. Visit bbc.co.uk/radio2 for more information and to view the full schedule.
Over on BBC Four, The Shires: New Country will examine the rise of The Shires, the first British country group to have a Top 10 album in the UK pop charts, and how they have spearheaded today’s interest in country music. The hour-long television documentary follows Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle as they launch their second album, My Universe, in the UK, as well as on a working trip to Nashville where they are signed by the leading country label in town Big Machine. The duo play the Bluebird, the intimate club where the performances from the TV series Nashville are filmed, and meet with Scott Borchetta, who discovered Taylor Swift and made the genre go pop. Interviews include Scott Borchetta, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires, sisters Catherine and Lizzy of Ward Thomas and Thomas Rhett, one of the rising stars of American country music, who mixes country with funk, pop and rock.
Ben and Crissie of The Shires says: “We’re so excited to be part of this documentary which explores the rise of country music in the UK – it’s a truly fascinating story. Plus it’s such a pleasure to have the opportunity to present our very own show on Radio 2 Country. We’ll be sharing our all-time favourite music with listeners, as well as playing tracks that have influenced our music and the artists we are today.”
Also on BBC Four, comedian and writer Rich Hall returns with a 90 minute documentary about the origins of country music, in particular the country music that came out of Nashville and Austin. In Rich Hall On Country (working title) Rich travels from Tennessee to Texas meeting up with authors and musicians, to discuss the birth and evolution of country music and how this genre of music has always had to reinvent itself, with influences from Bluegrass, Western Swing and Tex Mex .
The Shires: New Country was ordered for BBC Music and BBC Four by Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, and commissioned by Jan Younghusband, Head of Commissioning, Music TV. Produced by Globe Productions, the executive producer is Iain Funnell, the producer/director is Adrian Sibley. Co-produced by Decca Records.
Rich Hall On Country (working title) was ordered for BBC Four by Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, and commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Commissioning, Arts TV. An Open Mike production, where the Executive Producers are Andrew Beint and Anthony Caveney. Executive produced for the BBC by Emma Cahusac.