UK Country duo The Shires make chart history

In a ground-breaking chart first, The Shires – Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle (from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) – have become the first British country band to reach the Top 10 in the Official UK Album Chart with their debut ‘Brave’, released this week. The duo, who recently became the first UK signing to the re-launched Decca Nashville label, have today reached No.10 in the charts. Having overtaken Hozier, and just behind Paloma Faith, The Shires now sit comfortably alongside mainstream pop acts such as Kelly Clarkson, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Official Charts Company Chief Executive Martin Talbot, confirmed this unprecedented achievement, “This is a fantastic feat by this young British country duo. No UK country act has ever made this kind of impact on the chart before – it is truly remarkable.” The Shires’ record-breaking chart position is further evidence of the current cultural shift of country music moving eastwards from Nashville. From Dolly Parton’s Pyramid Stage set at Glastonbury last summer, to the increasingly successful annual Country to Country Festival at The O2 (at which The Shires are performing four times this weekend), and the popularity of recent hit musical TV show ‘Nashville’, never before has the country music genre had such a following in this country. Young British artists are now identifying with country singers such as Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, who have re-defined the genre by eradicating old stereotypes and appealing to a much younger audience. BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris comments on the phenomenon: “I’ve been doing the country show for 15 years now, and in the whole of that time I’ve never known things to be quite as exciting as they are today … Country is now appealing to a completely new, young generation” After forming in 2013, The Shires very quickly attracted industry fans and mainstream radio support, sparking much interest from the press in the rapidly growing popularity of country music in the UK. “It’s a chance for country, one of music’s most maligned genres, to have its day in the sun” – Q magazine While other pop or folk acts have hit the upper reaches of the Official Singles Chart with individual country songs (for instance, Lena Martell or Jimmy Nail), no act has made such an impact at the upper levels of the Official Albums Chart with a genuine country album – as verified by the UK branch of the Country Music Association. Director of BBC Music and CMA board member, Bob Shennan, comments: “From the very first play, The Shires have proved to be a class act. They also prove that a British artist can create authentic country music – and the fact that BBC Music has supported them via BBC Introducing and now Radio 2 is testament to their obvious talent and songwriting ability. We hope they can take Nashville by storm!” As country music continues to penetrate British culture, today it is The Shires who are firmly at the forefront. As the Sunday Times declared, “Country is being reborn – in Bedford”.

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