Country music fans gathered at Bush Hall for the start of Country Music Week in the wake of the atrocities at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas determined to enjoy the evening ahead and show how music has the power to unite.
Indeed, openers Walker McGuire had played that very festival the night before flying out and asked us to observe a short silence to respect all those involved in the tragedy.
This was their first visit to the UK, I had only researched their music the day before but had really loved what I had heard, in particular their lyrics and close harmonies. It seems they are really versatile writers, able to turn their hand to tearjerkers as well as fun, uptempo numbers. It was clear they already have fans here who were excited to see their first ever set on UK soil, but would their music stand the test in stripped back form?
The answer was a resounding “ yes”, these two ( originally from Kansas and Texas, now residing in Nashville where they met at a songwriters round ) demonstrated strong vocals, great acoustic guitar skills and a great rapport with both each other and the audience throughout their set, their tireless touring schedule stateside in recent years obviously reaping dividends . “ It makes our hearts happy to see you here, country music is a family “ Jordan Walker told us ( he seemed to be the duos main spokesman, also taking lead vocals on most of the songs with Johnny McGuire harmonising exquisitely) after their opener “ Mysteries of The World”, a beautiful ballad with a soaring chorus cleverly listing some of life’s conundrums including how, with “ seven million people on the planet ….you ended up with me “ https://youtu.be/EoTl8tYnKTU
Their debut album is already recorded and is set for release later this year, and we got a great preview of what we can expect to hear, songs steeped in the trad country that Jordan loves so much with a nod to the more roots music that inspires Johnny. Their next song, “ American Dream” was introduced as a “ John Cougar Mellencamp-ish american song….but don’t worry it’s not about trucks …it’s about all the blue collar workers who pay money to come to see us” and was about their day to day struggles ( teenage pregnancy included!) The chorus sums it up nicely, “ It’s a hell of a fight, we all want the same thing…it’s a hell of a fight surviving that American dream” .
Things lightened up considerably on the next number, inspired by a trip to Mexico ostensibly for songwriting but it seems the guys got a little distracted by everything else on offer there (!!) and it was only on the plane coming back that they did any writing which was on the back of a napkin, “we got inspiration in row 12 of SW Airlines” Jordan joked! The result was a really fun, uptempo and suitably latino sounding song (together with appropriate references ) called “ Ol’ What’s Her Name” about one particular distraction they encountered, a girl they met who’s name they couldn’t remember despite all the fun they had together and her being “ an angel sent from above” who “taught the international language of love” This one got a really great reception from the audience! https://youtu.be/A8vH8JL1rLs
An Luke Combs co-write followed, “ When It Rains It Pours” which the singer had huge success with, and the set closed with the duo’s fantastic break up song, “ Til Tomorrow”, a real heartbreaker about being fine about the split while drowning their sorrows with a buddy in a bar but of course things being very different in the cold light of day.
“ Thanks for making our first London show so cool” Jordan said before leaving the stage, as well as reminding us about the album and saying he hoped we’d learn the words of all their songs for when they come back here.
I’m sure they won over many new fans at this show, and with further sets throughout Country Music Week they will be guaranteed a great reception when they next visit, which will hopefully be soon.
I for one will be there, singing back all the words!