It is always such a joy when you see someone influential supporting and championing country music let alone releasing it. As I have stated many times before, Shane Richie is a huge country music fan and has been for years. A Country Soul is far from a “Jumping on the bandwagon” album and far from an amateur trying to have a go at music for a career change. Shane, much like most people in the industry acts and sings as well as other talents and he has a history of west end performances and albums.
The lead up to the release of A Country Soul has been quite exciting and interesting too, I have had this album for a few weeks now so have been itching for people to hear it so Shane can prove to anyone who had any doubt about him wrong. It’s funny because I receive a lot of albums to review but it is this one that really caught my attention and I really want positive results from it and I think he will get that.
A Country Soul is pretty much an introduction, a taster if you will to what direction Shane wants to go sonically from now on and Shane’s vision and interpretation of countrfying some non country songs is genius. When you have a passion for a genre such as Country it is very hard to leave it so I think Shane will be in the country verse for a while. A Country Soul is mostly full of covers from some of modern Country Music’s finest artists and the album also includes three originals – all of which stand out very strongly on their own and anyone unfamiliar with the original songs would likely be hard pressed to guess which ones were covers and which ones were originals.
Shane has this infectious like ability in his personality and this stretches across into his vocals and music too. I can’t help but love this album. So he isn’t your typical country star, so what? Who is these days and to be honest, I have enjoyed this album a lot more than some of what is meant to be country at the moment.
The selection of covers is wonderfully varied and impressive. Any hardcore country fan should be delighted to see their favourite artists being showcased. No cover is bad, in fact they are pretty dang good.
The album kicks off with Jon Pardi’s Heartache On The Dance Floor which is a great rendition and a good start to the album .
Heartland’s I Loved Her First is next and proof that Shane has been listening to country music for more than just a couple of years. The instrumental intro to this song is highly infectious and typically country in a beautiful way making me appreciate that the song hasn’t been changed into a pop format. Shane delivers a lot of emotion in this song making it his own as you believe he is feeling every word that he is singing throughout the entire ballad.
Wave on Wave – this is easily my favourite cover on the album and the first he released which I thought was a very smart move. I myself was shamefully unfamiliar with the original by Pat Green, sorry Pat but then doesn’t that show the purpose of this album seeing as I have since looked up the original? Shane hasn’t changed this song much but at the same time this song could easily be mistaken for being his own which is what I originally thought. This is the anthem of the album, it is so enjoyable in so many ways and is the style that I think really suits Shane’s voice, I mean I can just hear him having fun when he is singing this, can’t you? I have to give credit and attention for his performance of this song on the One show yesterday which I just thought was fantastic. I wanted people to hear this track and he didn’t disappoint, I think I even shouted “Yes, there you go”.
Shut Up (‘Cause All I Want Is You) is the first of the originals and co – written with his son Jake. You wouldn’t know this wasn’t a cover. As I mentioned before, these originals are just as strong as the covers and I would choose to listen to them over some of the covers any day. This song makes me wish that he put out an entire album of originals but I understand why he didn’t at this point. This track has a radio friendly appeal and is sonically and lyrically very impressive. I would love to hear this song live with a huge production, I am talking big band, choir, the works as would work so well. I can already picture a prime time tv appearance spot with this song. The track is really up beat and so much fun, making it incredibly addictive and a highlight from the album. I feel this will be a favourite amongst many fans.
When you see Nik Kershaw’s I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me on the list you automatically think to yourself but this isn’t a country song? Please just listen to it, really listen to it and you will see why this song has made the cut for the album. This version shows that Shane has not only made this song his own but that he has an ear for the genre and he can hear and vision the genre in other songs. The way he has transformed and countrified this song is highly impressive, giving the song a whole new life and I absolutely love it!
Rascal Flatts What Hurts The Most was for me and probably most country fans the most intriguing cover off the album. If you are familiar with Rascal Flatts then you will know that lead singer Gary LeVox has quite the distinctive voice which is very high. What I love about this cover and speaking to Shane I told him that hearing the song in a much lower tone was very refreshing and gave the song a new edge, in fact a different vibe entirely and in a good way. Rascal Flatts can be like marmite, some people love them, some people don’t but having this version in existence shows just how good of a song it really is and I found myself concentrating on the lyrics more during this version. It can be considered brave to bring out your own version of a Rascal Flatts song but I find it more of a smart move, I love this version.
Whilst Wagon Wheel isn’t a Darius Rucker song originally, it has recently become one of his most successful releases to date so if Shane, as a long time fan and friend of Darius’ was going to release any of his songs, this was the right choice – it also fits rather well within the flow of the album. Wagon Wheel is a song that everyone needs to know. It is one of those sing a long tracks that gets everyone going in a live setting and I hope that Shane achieves the same response when he performs it live. The arrangement hasn’t changed which is good and Shane’s gravely tone suits this song and he doesn’t try to sing it like anyone else.
Heartache Tonight originally done by The Eagles – again, another fab cover very suited to Shane’s style vocally and a song he has again made his own. What I like about this track is that you concentrate on the vocals as the music is somewhat background giving an opportunity for Shane to stand out more.
That Bottle Ain’t Your Friend is the second original off the album. This is a lovely country ballad with a lot of soul, honesty and authenticity. The songs showcases Shane’s writing talents and why it is that he suits country music. Country is all about the story-telling, the honesty and the real life experiences and this song ticks all those boxes. An incredibly well crafted effort that more than proves Shane’s talent as a musician.
Love The One You’re With a Stephen Stills cover and one I believe Shane and his band have been performing for a while. This is another song that shows the soulful side to Shane and will no doubt be another favourite amongst fans.
On and On ( Stephen Bishop) a song I was unfamiliar with and holds more of an older feel which just shows how diverse this album is and how it caters for an audience of all ages. This could easily be mistaken for being his own song but I actually prefer Shane’s originals.
Drift Away ( Dobie Gray ) – the last cover and like I previously stated, there is no bad cover on the album. This track has a nice easy listening appeal and Shane has done such a good job of selecting songs suited to his style which isn’t actually as easy as people would imagine and shows true musicianship as many singers cover their favourites regardless of whether they work well or not ( programs like X Factor is a good example) this song has a lot of passion within the chorus and is also quite emotive. The choir adds that little bit extra and in general the song has a warming and inviting vibe.
22 Gardens is the last original off the album. The song is about your first love as a child and in Shane’s case the neighbour who he had to cross 22 Gardens to see. This is a nice ending to the album and quite simply a very lovely song with an interesting story. I love the title and the meaning behind the song, it is so sweet and relatable and no doubt gives everyone a flash back to their childhood. This song has that American country appeal and could easily fit on any mainstream country artists album today. This track is such a great example of Shane’s ability to tell a story in the form of songwriting. 22 Gardens is the perfect blend of traditional and modern country music and well worth a listen.
Thinking that Shane one day decided “you know what? I’m going to release a country album” should be thrown away from now on. Shane is a fan of country and a fine musician who has proven that we can trust that he will always make sure his arrangements of covers will be complimented and well crafted. A Country Soul is three years in the making and an album to be proud of.
I think Shane has cleverly selected songs that will not only stand out but songs that he can translate well during a live performance where he can truly give his audience a show.
As I have mentioned now on numerous occasions, Shane’s originals are just as good as the covers if not better in some ways. I feel that Shane has now done enough to be able to release a full album of his own music in the not too distant future and I for one cannot wait to see that dream of his become a reality. I hope that the country community will get behind Shane and treat him as a musician rather than that bloke from Eastenders. I think Shane’s audience will now see that country music is so much more than Islands In The Stream and Achy Breaky Heart and that it is a genre well worth investigating. Like us, Shane wants to spread the joy of country music as it really is an amazing genre and so much more deserving of recognition.
Still skeptical and made up your mind before even hearing it? Go, listen, even if it doesn’t appeal to you I would be surprised if you didn’t at least give him credit where credit is due that this is more than just an actor covering some country tunes.
Purchase A Country Soul by Shane Richie here
Check out our interview with Shane here