The Shires - My Universe

In some ways it’s a sad time for The Shires. After breaking new ground in April 2015 by becoming the first British country music band to break the UK albums charts top ten they had ambitions to go better this time round. Then contemporaries Ward Thomas ruined it all by having the UK’s first ever British country act have a number one album. Damn those twins. Still Crissie and Ben have much to celebrate as their second record, My Universe, is an almost perfect continuation of their debut, stuffed full of toe tappers and immediate sing-a-longers.

Having strengthened their country credentials by performing at the Grand Ole Opry since their debut, they also roped in some top talent to help shape the sound of My Universe including country’s blue collar star, Kip Moore. And this honing of their writing skills is clear to hear in the undeniably catchy melodies of lead single ‘Beats To Your Rhythm’ and the winningly playful ‘Not Even Drunk Right Now’. They can do pathos too with the touching and raw ‘Everything You Never Gave’ where Ben Earle pledges not to repeat the mistakes of his father, in an ode to his newborn. Flipping that coin with ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ is a clever move too, and shows the growing confidence of this duo. Plus, any song that can weave Old Spice into the lyrics is a winner.

If the songs are a strong point then the voices are the game winners. Earle and Crissie Rhodes have two of the best voices around, a beautiful tone and a sense of subtlety, whether leading the song or harmonising. ‘Naked’ and the open road themed ‘Drive’ are the two ballads that really show off this rare talent. Despite the country music label The Shires are incredibly accessible and mainstream in the extreme. Happily this is a good thing and they can expect their first chart topper imminently.

Verdict

A very very good second record. Catchy, touching, mainstream.
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