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The Shires - Accidentally On Purpose (Album Review)

Thursday, 26 April 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

It’ll rather be amusing if anyone accuses the Shires of selling out to the world of American pop-country on their third album. The British duo were clearly edging further in that direction on 2016’s ‘My Universe’ anyway, so it only took a small step for Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes to fully embrace that style and deliver ‘Accidentally on Purpose’, a fine album that’s tailor-made to crack the US market.

It’s easy to criticise bands who adopt this strategy, but doing so involves ignoring reality. The Shires have smashed plenty of records when it comes to sales and chart positions in Britain and are well placed to become the first UK country act to ever break through in the land of the free. When it comes to forging a long-lasting career and creating history, why wouldn’t that be their immediate goal?

The good news is that ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ represents evolution not revolution. Its upbeat anthems and romantically-charged ballads still sound like the Shires, only with added US gloss that will allow them to sit comfortably alongside anyone from Lady Antebellum, a major early influence, to Sam Hunt, classic Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line on Nashville’s airwaves.

The Hard Way, Echo and Guilty build on the big, anthemic sound of past songs like My Universe and A Thousand Hallelujahs. Country instrumentation may have been relegated to a background role (if it was completely removed the difference would be negligible), but they’re infectious fun-filled singalongs that – much like River of Love and World Without You – make good on the band’s promise to deliver more upbeat tracks.

Where there were too many one-paced ballads on previous records, they’ve found a better blend here and their love songs shine even brighter as a result. The title track and Strangers offer more of an arena-ready scope, Eye of the Storm is a simmering Lady Antebellum moment, and Sleepwalk and Speechless are impossibly tender numbers that highlight how much the pair’s voices have improved. Likewise, Stay The Night – co-written by the seemingly omnipotent Ed Sheeran – showcases their increased synergy as a vocal duo courtesy of some sublime harmonies.

For better or worse this is the sound of contemporary mainstream country, but it’s a natural and organic sound as opposed to one that relies on studio trickery and synthetic textures. To put it another way, ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ is much closer to the pop vibe of Swift’s ‘Red’ than the over-produced, shark-jumping mess that is ‘Reputation’.

In terms of traditional country moments, you’ll find more of those on Metallica’s ‘Load’ album thanks to the song Mama Said. The Shires have the ability to go down that road, but ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ is exactly the right album at exactly the right time. Packed with songs that will stand out in Music City because of Earle and Rhodes' endearing charm, façade-free enthusiasm and authentic sentimentality, Nashville should prepare to be conquered.

The Shires Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat May 12 2018 - GUILDFORD G Live Guildford
Sun May 13 2018 - BOURNEMOUTH Bournemouth Pavilion
Mon May 14 2018 - CARDIFF St David's Hall
Wed May 16 2018 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Fri May 18 2018 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall
Sat May 19 2018 - FOLKESTONE Leas Cliff Hall
Sun May 20 2018 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Hall
Tue May 22 2018 - IPSWICH Ipswich Regent Theatre
Wed May 23 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Cambridge Corn Exchange
Thu May 24 2018 - OXFORD New Theatre Oxford
Sun May 27 2018 - GLASGOW Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Mon May 28 2018 - GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead
Wed May 30 2018 - CARLISLE Carlisle Sands Centre
Thu May 31 2018 - YORK York Barbican
Fri June 01 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall
Sun June 03 2018 - STOKE Victoria Hall
Mon June 04 2018 - LIVERPOOL Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Tue June 05 2018 - LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru
Wed June 06 2018 - MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall
Fri June 08 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall Notts
Sat June 09 2018 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome
Sun June 10 2018 - BASINGSTOKE Anvil
Sat August 25 2018 - CHEPSTOW Chepstow Castle

Click here to compare & buy The Shires Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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