The country revolution, Made in London, five exciting new British acts perform at the legendary Jazz Cafe, joined by the Nashville-based, Sonia Leigh.

Local promoter w21 are out in force giving their support to Time Out, Rising Stars of Country Music held at the Jazz Café on the October 06. The show brings together some of the finest acts who have played the pop-up stages at this year’s C2C festival. Organizers have been so impressed with performances at C2C, that they decided to champion these exceptional unsigned artists who are putting UK country music on the map, as well as making waves amongst their American counterparts.

“We’ve assembled five of the very finest new acts that will have you stomping your feet and shouting yeehaw at our favourite Camden haunt, The Jazz Cafe,” according to the playbill. “Witness the Country revolution that’s happening right now and see some of the Brits that are playing their part in this evolution of sound.”

The event can bestow no finer accolade on the lineup than having Sonia Leigh as the show’s main headliner. Leigh is an artist who has had enormous commercial success in the States, having written two of the biggest hits for the Zac Brown Band, “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie.”

Since then, Leigh has parted from her label and has set out as an independent act like many of the artists represented this evening who defy conventional ideas of how country music should sound. Instead, she embraces a format encompassing different types of influences that further serves to broaden her music appeal and make this such an exciting time for country music.

It is a testament to the talent of the artists performing at the Jazz Café that, even though The Country 2 Country Festival launch was taking part at the Brooklyn Bowl on the same evening, the show has already sold out. Indeed, many of the audience are showing their support as genuine fans, part of a growing family of concert goers at events such as these who aren’t affected by promotion or marketing campaigns.

Caitlin Arthur of the Nashville to Norwich radio show on Livewire1350 introduces the first act, Luke and Mel, the multi-award winning singer/songwriter duo hailed as one of UK country music’s hottest new bands. In December 2014, their self-titled EP debuted at number two on the iTunes UK Country Album Chart, making them the only UK unsigned band to ever get into the top 10.

The pair combines haunting harmonies and exceptional musicianship to create a sound that is both unique and authentic. Luke’s guitar picking is surprisingly good, and the pair’s harmonies have so much old-school country soul, that it is easy to imagine being transported to Alabama or the deep south.

Next up is Dee and Gareth from Dexeter, whose band has followed numerous London shows with a host of UK festival appearances including C2C Yeehaw, Fort San Antone Fest, and MidWinterFest. The duo engages the audience with ease, putting all of them in stitches with their banter. The audience responds singing along from the start. Dee’s voice is stunningly good and has the crowd holding onto every word.

Megan O’Neill follows next singing just two incredible songs, ending too soon for most, singing about the trials and tribulations of living in London. O’Neill brings a familiar sensibility to her songwriting style, and her performance is flawless.

Laura Oakes comes on next wearing a tailor-made copper coloured suit looking every part the country star. She commands the stage and has everyone transfixed by her renditions of songs from her recent EP, as well as a country version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” which has clearly become a fan favorite.

Oakes exudes confidence throughout her performance. She shares her love for country music with her voice permeating the room with, its country soul enchanting all in the venue. Judging by the rousing applause at the end of her show, the audience is clearly impressed by what they have seen.

It is clear to see there are big things ahead for her and the band. Indeed she has been invited to play at the British Country Music Association Awards in October, and has recently appeared on a number of radio shows including Chris Country, Amazing Radio’s Front Porch, Billy Butler’s BBC Merseyside, as well as Bob Harris’s under the Apple Tree sessions.

Sonia Leigh follows Oakes ramping up the volume in the room with her brand of high energy Honky Tonk. Her music is a perfect complement to Laura’s music where Laura had previously interwoven elements of Americana and Soul into her performance, Sonia takes things into a different direction. Using the influences of reggae and rock, Sonia abundantly demonstrates her complete sense of freedom within this musical genre that is evolving as a distinct music style.

The highlight of her performance is in her most beautiful rendition of “Sweet Annie” that has everyone in the room utterly transfixed. Towards the end of the set, Leigh was joined by Jeanine Barry and Linda Burratto from Echo Boom Generation to sing “Booty Call,” which was a lot of fun.

Lucky Strikes ends the evening with their superb set of howling, fiddle-powered garage rock ‘n’ roll.

All in all, this is an incredible experience for a wet Tuesday evening raising spirits and leaving everyone eager for Rising Stars of Country Music, part two.

Our photographer Eric Duvet was on hand to capture images from the show.

Review by Ade Riches

The Lucky Strikes
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Sonia Leigh
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Laura Oakes
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Dexeter
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Luke and Mel
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The Jazz Cafe
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