You’ll be Broken-Hearted to miss Hannah Johnson

Howdy; yeah, it’s me, riding back to the crossroads on a horse with no name to convince you, once again, that your preconceived ideals about country music are not made of Spanish leather. Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts stroll into town on the 23rd March to cast this caboodle out to the desert. Not that we have a desert, but in a way, that’s my point.

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It’s easy to tire of the cliché of the modern country scene and arrive at the conclusion it’s not for you. Agreed, if you screech much of the music coming out of Nashville today denotes watered down country-pop, or stylistically pretentious Americana; same old chanted choruses and stomping drums, country music aficionado Dean Czerwionka, of Wiltshire’s Country Music Scene, Dead Kool Promotions aims to set the record straight.

Keen to promote and bring us all that is great about the scene, rather than the standardised churns of the industry machine, Dean hosts Hannah Johnson & The Broken Hearts at the Cavalier, Devizes on the 23rd March, with one of Devizine’s favourites, the Celtic-based acoustic duo, Sound Affects as support.

 

Surprisingly, it’s our homegrown artists reacting against this notion, and Hannah Johnson is of no exception, she’s from Birmingham. This award-winning (UK Country Artist of the Year 2018 – UK Country Music Awards and Most Successful British & Irish Single 2017, Hotdisc Country Music Awards) Brummie girl began her artistic career working in theatre and television as a child, participating in an unabridged version of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Puck, aged 11, part of a Central Television actors’ workshop, and acting in national children’s TV shows. But ‘tired of being someone else on stage’ and hailing from a musical home, she began singing, and initially studied the clarinet, but switched to guitar in her teens; realising she couldn’t use the clarinet to back up her vocals.

She soon found a home with the country music genre, through its “humility, simplicity and ability face emotionally complex topics,” not forgoing fifteen years touring extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA as lead in her family band, The Toy Hearts. Hannah’s composition The Captain remains the biggest hit for her family band, the song a testament to both her song-writing ability, and her fierce independence.

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An Alumni of the prestigious IBMA Leadership Bluegrass program, Hannah returns to the UK after a whirlwind tour of Austin, Texas, with shows in London, York, Doncaster, of course her beloved Birmingham, and Devizes. Her debut album, Shaken rinses of country and honky-tonk of yore, with characteristic twangy telecaster riffs and a singing style to make Tammy Wynette blush. With a slight smoky element of Patsy Cline to her voice, the standout tracks are her own compositions, receiving warm reviews.

An event then to warm country fans, and perhaps, ideal to introduce newcomers; you may be the broken hearted of her band title if you miss this one. This event is FREE, waddies, rustlers and cowgirls.

 

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Teenage Country Sensation Emily Lockett coming to Devizes

 

Arriving at seventeen is a crossroads between childhood and adulthood where most of us dangle in limbo, at a loss to where the path will lead.

At the same age I didn’t know what was what, Stoke-on-Trent’s singer/songwriter Emily Lockett is busy working on her second EP, to feature three tracks already recorded; “Nice Eyes,” “Feel Love” and “Where We Left Off.” These two releases follow her 2016 album “Reflections of Me.”

With a stunningly graceful voice and the poignant song writing ability of a musician twice her age, seems this country-pop-folk artist, recently awarded British Country Airplay “Artiste of the Year 2018” in the people’s vote, has a flying start to a career in music. “I started learning to play the guitar at the age of about 5 and started writing songs when I was 12,” she explains on her website.

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So, if you thought the recently renamed Devizes Amerpolitain Club was a handful of line-dancing fogies, perhaps it’s time to rethink your preconception, as Dean Czerwionka constantly pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings a wealth of youthful talent to our town, Emily is playing at the Conservative Club this Sunday; it’s her first headline gig and blatantly, she’s one to watch.

“If you like Taylor Swift’s early work with an Avril Lavigne vibe then I’ll be right up your street,” she tells. But don’t let comparisons judge, check out the videos added here and see what I mean yourself.

Currently studying an Artist Development BTEC Level 4 at Access to Music in Manchester, Emily began on the talent show circuit at her tender age, her song “Reflection of Me” was highly commended in 2017 in the national Song Academy Young Songwriter competition, a fashion repeated this following year. It was performed live on BBC Radio Stoke, and a mountain of other local radio shows; deserves a warm, Devizes welcome, wouldn’t you say?

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https://www.emilylockett.co.uk

https://m.soundcloud.com/emilylockettmusic

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5jTBTukmcJaAfea5tj1I8x…

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Country Short Stories; New EP from The Stories

Ray Charles covering Frank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” was one thing, but the concept of working on an album of country music during the period of racial segregation was not met fondly with Atlantic; they’d rather he stuck to pop-orientated RnB. But, a swift move to ABC in 1961 and “Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music,” promptly became the most radical album of American music, twisting ethnic barricades amid the Civil Rights Movement. Ray Charles began with this genre, his hillbilly roots the only method to get noticed in Georgia, but ask him what he adored about country music and he’d reply, “it’s the stories.”

 
What the greatest American singer/songwriters, like Springsteen and Dylan owe to anecdotes weaved into country is paramount. With this in mind I was keen to hear what stories a band called “The Stories” from our own West Country would tell on their new EP, “Short Stories,” released this week.

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Perhaps their name not as apt as I considered though, as there isn’t such a strong concentration of narrative in these tracks, no emotional roller-coasters of Johnny Cash, and not really the melancholic but astute intertwined chronicle of Tammy Wynette’s “Ode to Billy-Joe,” for example. The second tune of the EP, “Never Walk Away,” prime, where the rather washy metaphor, “I need you like a flower needs the sun,” is scarcely the helm of innovative song-writing.

 
That said, lyrically it’s far beyond Achy Breaky Heart and the plethora of line-dancing anthems which bleed all authenticity from the roots of country music, from its native land. In fact, like Stevie Nicks with twang, I’ve got time for The Stories as it sticks to the country formula with rhythms to appease pop.

 
So, there is, however, five feel-good country-inspired pop songs with instant appeal and something immensely uplifting about their sound. No raw edge, just joyful immaculate riffs and amiable vocals that will not only appease country fans, but with cross-over pop sounds akin to Sheryl Crow and the panache of Shania Twain at a barn dance, I reckon this has a much wider appeal. The opening and subsequent tune, “What if,” and “Never Walk Away” being prime examples.

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The theme of “What If” kind of reminds me of Stevie Wonder’s “As,” take elements malfunctioning, the sun sinking into the ocean, stars not shining at night, then proclaim “none of it matters as long as you love me.” It unfastens the group’s kingpin, their wonderfully composed vocal harmonies. Whereas the second song in concentrates on the group’s female vocalist, Teri Souter as she takes the lead, continuing with romantic prose.

 
Third tune, “He’ll Drive Me Crazy,” becomes less quixotic and, with wit borders pop with a catchy Shania Twain-fashioned slant on the unattractiveness of a well behaved man.

 
“Ghost on my Trail,” next, the most astutely written and expressed. Like a true country classic it’s the most beautifully crafted on the EP. I’m unsure which male member takes the duet with Teri, David Griffin or Jason Allen, but their strong Segar-like vocals traditionalises the Nashville sound with a heart-warming, sentimentalised country formula.

This is equally followed by the gorgeously executed finale, “Roses Outside My Door.” The writing upgrades as the EP progresses, and I’ve taken a leap of faith; The Stories may’ve questioned my preconceived inkling that their debut EP would herald the traditional killer narrative of Guthrie or Wynette, but it rolls with conventional country in such a catchy and likeable fashion, there’s nothing here to dislike.

 

I’d certainly recommend booking these guys and gals for your barn dance, country music club or any gathering where some good ol’ boys will be drinking whisky and rye. In fact, that’s how I heard about them; they’re performing for the Devizes Country Music Club at the Conservative Club on the 2nd February. Yeah I know, ages away, that’s why you need to check out the EP, or attend Fairfest Music Festival in Fairford on 18th August, where they’ll also play.

 

For more gigs, info and links to purchase the EP, click here. The Stories Facebook page is here.

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