REVIEW: Ward Thomas – Nerve Centre, Derry

IMG_1632There has been a recent upsurge in the popularity of country music; a genre that until lately has always been associated with cowboy boots, hats and hoedowns.

But with acts such as Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum taking over our airwaves they have seemingly making it cool to be country.

While it has always been the genre of choice for many Americans, here in the UK we have trailed behind when offering up suitable home grown stars to rival those of The States. Cue, Ward Thomas, one of the most genuine and talented country duos to emerge recently they have been quickly gaining a lot of attention and are on the cusp of becoming the one of the UK’s biggest country groups. Derry’s Nerve Centre were fortunate enough to play host to duo on Friday 27th of March.

IMG_1654Support act Jessica Ridley was up first to help rile the audience for the main act of the night. Playing songs off her debut E.P ‘The Highway’ , the singer-songwriter is expressive in both her lyrics and her playing. Building a great rapport with the audience she encouraged everyone to partake in a Nashville tradition by raising their cups in the air and screaming as loud as their lungs would allow. An amalgamation of influences can be heard throughout Ridley’s songs with strong elements of bluegrass, folk and country With only three on the stage, multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Herman was able to provide depth to the songs by switching from guitar to fiddle when needed and was entertaining and enthralling to watch.

IMG_1693  IMG_1815There was an eager atmosphere in the seated venue as the enthusiastic audience awaited 20 year old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas. Being met with a rapturous applause the duo begins a Capella exposing their beautiful vocals harmonies. Opening their set with ‘Push for the Stride’ we are immediately introduced to their infectious country beats and even though the event is seated many of the audience members can be heard stomping their feet.

Having perfected the defined American intonation associated with country singers, it is a huge shock when the girls begin to speak as they are as English as the countryside they were brought up in. Making their first recordings in Nashville it is clear the influence it has had over not only their music but their lyrics. Songs such as ‘Top of the Guest List’ demonstrate the great synchronicity between the pair who’s closeness has helped create a harmonious sense to their performance.

IMG_1714Playing their song ‘Footnotes’, which was the song that got the duo noticed originally, the lyrics help tell a story of woman met by the twosome on a train. Slowing down their set the song is mellow and melodic and exposes the girl’s harmonies with Catherine hitting the higher melodies and Lizzy taking on the deeper more raspy vocals. Their cover a Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ was unusual with the tempo of the song sped up and the girls haunting harmonies.

IMG_1700Finishing their set with ‘A Town called Ugley’  – apparently written about a real town in Essex – they brought Jimmy Herman back out to add some fiddle to the song it is undeniably catchy. Their self-confessional styled lyrics and lively rhythms make it obvious why the group have fitted in so well to the country genre but they demonstrate a deeper dynamism that a lot of other acts and I can recognise the hype. Encoring with Neil Diamonds ‘Sweet Caroline’ the audience are absolutely thrilled by the duos reappearance on stage with a lot of them leaving their seats to dance, the night was a true success for the girls who I would imagine have made lifelong fans. Aine Cronin-McCartney, GiggingNI.com