The Shires – Brave – Album Review
The Shires are a UK Country Vocal Duo newly signed to Decca Records and a Major Label in Nashville USA. The Shires are Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes.
Ben’s background is mostly as a songwriter who had written songs for Ronan Keating amongst others. Crissie was previously a wedding singer and also a contestant on The X Factor, who was foolishly let go by Nicole Scherzinger. With Ben not being satisfied solely being a songwriter and Crissie having her future being wrongly denied by X Factor, it was fate which drew them towards a much better career path.
After listening to US Country Act Lady Antebellum, Ben had decided this was the musical direction he wished to pursue and wrote a status on Facebook saying “There must be a female country singer out there somewhere”. A mutual friend tagged Crissie in, they met the next day and The Shires were born.
The name The Shires was decided on as both were from The Shires; Ben from Hertfordshire and Crissie from Bedfordshire
Now, it’s not often that you find a band who have such a huge following, sell out shows and enjoy such a fantastic support network from both fans and the media before an album has even been released – and without any air time on UK’s Premiere Radio station – but The Shires seem to have achieved all of that and more.
The Shires do not try to be anything they are not and do not try to be like US Country Artists. There are no false American Accents, no false realities in what they sing about and no signs of dirt roads or trucks.
The Shires’ lyrics come from somewhere honest, heartfelt and a place we can all identify with, especially their first single Nashville Grey Skies.
I would not describe The Shires as a typical Country band. I believe they are almost a genre in their own right and would appeal to anyone who has a keen ear for decent music to look them up and give them a listen. They both hold strong vocal ability and Ben plays many instruments and writes most of the songs. I would say listen to The Shires if you like:
Little Big Town
Brave is The Shires Debut Album and is released 2nd March 2015 and available on CD here
On iTunes here
The second single almost did not make it on the album. Ben has often said they stopped performing this for a while and he did not think it should be on the album as more and more songs went on to be written, However, it was a popular song amongst the fans, being one of the best songs performed live, and happily made it on to the album. Tonight is a great start to the album. Vocals start with Ben for the first verse and then Crissie on the second. An upbeat happy track with a chorus of instruments such as electric, acoustic and bass guitar, mandolin and drums
Nashville Grey Skies
The first single and still my favourite track, a song any UK Country Music fan can identify with and undoubtedly helped kick start their career. We all want our own ‘Nashville’ here and it is just such a good song. My favourite intro of a song since Pearl Jam’s Yellow Ledbetter, it goes straight into a very Country Style acoustic/electric guitar and possibly Mandolin intro, followed by Ben and Crissie’s joint vocals. This is the only track where Ben and Crissie sing in unison throughout the whole song, with the exception of a line or two. Such a beautiful melody and clever, meaningful lyrics which draw passion from the band and the fans. In a word a Fun track.
The title track of the album. Brave is, I would say, a ballad. A stunning track vocally and musically with a strong chorus. One of my favourites.
A song that nearly wasn’t written. The Shires had what they believed to be enough tracks for the album until Ben was asked to attend a writing session. Having the lyric ‘Drunk on AFriday Night’ in his head, he brought this to the attention of his co–writers and the song was born a few hours later. The most recent single from The Shires and possibly the most successful. This has had a lot of air play and praise from the media. This song definitely has a Lady Antebellum feel to it and perhaps influenced the track. It’s a fun song in a more pop country style and good to sing and dance along to. I love it.
I Just Wanna Love You
One of the first songs I heard from The Shires after Nashville Grey Skies. Another stunning ballad. It starts with Ben on The Piano and vocals and a bit of percussion. A song about love –obviously – as the title is a giveaway, but a nice message to it; how money and other things aren’t important when you find that special someone. Nice to hear the studio version, as Ionly heard it acoustically. It’s nice to hear it with a full band and mastering and glad it’s not over produced. I do really love this song acoustically though.
All Over Again
I believe this was the first song Ben and Crissie wrote together. It’s a cute, upbeat track which is also more pop country in a good way
Jekyll and Hyde
A song I had not heard prior to the album. This track has a Country Rock style to it. This song shows a whole new range to Crissie’s vocal ability and she has a nice husky rockiness to her voice in this track. This is a totally different style to the rest of the album and I wasn’t sure I would be keen on it but the more I play it, the more I love it. I can imagine this song featuring on ABC’s Nashville being performed by Gunnar, Avery and Zoe. Who knows? Maybe it will get on there one day?
Another song that nearly wasn’t written and on the album. I think this was written a few days after Friday night. This song is about comparing someone to the states of America. I love the studio version of this song as only heard the live recording and live performances of it. Lyrically this is a very clever song and I really love how well they used and chose certain states of America against the personal traits of a person like:
You’ve got a crazy sense of humour, dry as the sands in Arizona, you know you do
Like when you roll your eyes like a cool New Yorker driving across the Mason Dixon line, I’ve gotta smile
Black and White
This song is another ‘ballad–ish’ track, although I would also say it isn’t, as I feel it’s also upbeat in a way. This song has a beautiful melody and also has a great build up in the bridge. Again the vocals on this song are so powerful and flawless. I love the lyrics. Another piano start and Crissie on lead vocals to begin.
Real love is Black and White
Made in England
Another fan favourite as the lyrics are clever, funny and enjoyable. A proud to be English anthem.
Yes I’m made in England
Nowhere I’d rather be
And milk in my tea
Is good enough for me
How Many Love Songs
Another slower ballad track. Probably my least favourite track, but I still really like it. I can see why Ben wrote songs for Ronan Keating as I can see it being similar to some of Ronan’s other tracks. A short but sweet song.
Only Midnight (Deluxe Edition)
A nice song about the feelings you get after a successful first date and how you cannot wait to hear from them again. The feeling drives you crazy and you question why you haven’t heard from them; after all, its only midnight. This track reminds me of Gloriana’s style and a little of Lady Antebellum.
Islands In The Stream (Deluxe Edition)
A cover of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ hit song – or Bee Gees as it was written by them. A beautiful version which originally featured on The Sound of The Eighties CD compilation.The Shires do not try to be Dolly and Kenny in this song and pull it off very well. I usually don’t enjoy covers but this truly is a lovely version of a great classic.
Drink You Away (Deluxe Edition)
For ages this song reminded me of another and I could not for the life of me remember – but eventually I did and it’s Thompson Square’s ‘Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About’,which is also a great song. It has a similar sound but at the same times is completely different. I could really hear this song doing well in America.
Overall I give The Shires – Brave 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it. There is not a bad track on the album and their music would appeal to a wide range of people, not just Country fans.
The Shires also start a headline tour in April and will be supported by John and Jacob.
Tickets available here