LIVE: The Shires – McHughs Basement, Belfast

TS1 TS3 TS4 TS5If you are woken by Chris Evans in the morning, or, are an occasional BBC Radio 2 listener, you will most probably have heard the debut single ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ from UK country pop duo, The Shires. The band is composed of singer-songwriters Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes and is the first ever UK country act to be signed to a major Nashville label.

They played to an intimate crowd in McHughs Basement last Monday evening, although by their own admission that night, they were very grateful that: a) anyone turned up at all, and b) it was much better than the 4 people who turned up to see them in Dublin on the previous evening (in fairness, Longitude may have had something to do with this…). They were being modest though, as this small venue in Belfast was happily full, of I’m guessing, mostly Radio 2 listeners.

With expert harmonies, both of them flawlessly take lead vocals giving just the right amount of power on Blues influenced numbers when required, but also pulling back to offer subtlety on their ‘Country mould’ soft ballads. Ben provides backing on guitar and keyboards and the duo and their songs are instantly likeable. Despite a great love of American music they have highlighted their English roots in the lyrics of their debut single, the band name and with a song called ‘Made in England’. They seemed hesitant to play this to a Belfast crowd, but were warmly encouraged to do so and it’s quirky lyrics and simple message were well received. Jude Malone, GiggingNI.com