Disclosure: I am a huge fan of The Shires. Warning: As a fan, expect the following review to be totally subjective and written with love.
I have waited with a mixture of excitement and quiet trepidation for the release of Accidentally On Purpose, the third installment in the The Shires‘ musical journey. Much like waiting for the next release in the Harry Potter or Star Wars franchises, there is that longing for what you have been anticipating for so long to live up to your great expectations. So it was with huge delight that, when I pressed play, any lingering fears of disappointment vanished without trace. As soon as the opening riffs on The Hard Way emerged from my stereo speakers, and the soulful voice of Ben Earle kicked in, it was like slipping on an all-too-familiar jumper and returning home.
My love of country music began with these guys. Since hearing their debut single Nashville (Grey Skies), my life has changed considerably. I’ve gone off on a musical trajectory that I could never have envisaged. Hearing these new songs puts me in a reflective mood therefore. And it is comforting to hear Ben & Crissie’s signature sounds emanating from this new album. Success has not led them off the beaten track where they’ve lost their way. At the same time, it is great to find a new level of production and sound quality that means a step up from Brave and My Universe. As such, it has allowed them to bolster their continued songwriting prowess with improved and more expansive instrumentation. Echo and Guilty are two tracks that significantly benefit from this and, as a result, have the potential to be major new anthems that will be mainstays in their set lists for years to come. It is not just these feelgood tunes that house massive potential however. Closing track Loving You Too Long feels like it has come direct from the Elton John songbook of ballads. It could quite easily be the soundtrack to any number of tear-jerking montages (in fact, it reminded me of the one in Up) such is its beautiful simplicity and gentle grace. In between, the tracks on Accidentally On Purpose remain full of the familiar: the gorgeous harmonies between the two; the nicely balanced solo parts that allow their individual vocal strengths to shine through; the stories and experiences of love; the mixture of finely-tempered soul with good-time pop. What’s not to like? As such, my anticipation matched reality. Accidentally On Purpose is a great addition to the growing canon of UK country music. Indeed, it perhaps heralds the next level for this increasingly popular sub-genre. Rather than resting on their laurels, Ben and Crissie have continued to push themselves. With this record, it appears that they have succeeded in not only maintaining but furthering the cause for country music entering the mainstream in the UK. They have managed to stay true to themselves in the process and, in doing so, have encouraged people like myself with their music.
Thanks for being a major part to the soundtrack of my life, guys. You deserve all the plaudits that come your way with Accidentally On Purpose. Long may your success continue. I say this unashamedly, with total bias, and a whole lot of love 🙂