Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Four British EPs by Adele & Andy, Bob Fitzgerald, The Blue Highways and Caitlin Mae

Adele & Andy – Love, Loss and Life Lessons EP

The six tracks on this EP, which follows one released within the last year, are in turns mysterious and pretty.

As Much As I Miss You is about honouring the memory of the dead; it’s a proper country song with fleshed-out characters and a plea for a dying father to ensure that his son looks after his widow. Adele’s voice is extraordinary and the arrangement is tender. Myles Kennedy of the band Alter Bridge wrote Wonderful Life, which A&A turn into a country waltz with harmonies and snare-rim taps on the offbeat while being faithful to the original version.

Earl is a story song set in the 1800s where the poor protagonist takes the wrap for a crime he didn’t commit thanks to the actions of a wicked girl who uses her position of power and privilege. Maybe it’s an allegory or parable, and the arrangement puts the story first, adding some catchy earworms to ensure the message comes through. He Is Me is similarly mysterious: Adele has been changed, knows where she’s meant to be, thanks to advice from a wise man.

The production across the EP is brilliant, especially on midtempo tune I Got You and breakup song I’m Getting Over You, which follows the poppy tenor of the best UK country from the likes of Ward Thomas and Twinnie. I think A&A should be held in their class, given a bit of a push from Bob Harris, Matt Spracklen and Tim Prottey-Jones.

Caitlin Mae – Perspective EP

Caitlin announces herself with this promising four-track EP, on which are two country tunes and two pop/rock ballads. Country Eyes (‘they tell a story’) is driven by a soft shuffle and a strong chorus with some neat chord shifts, while the time signature moves from bars of three to bars of four, giving it a musical interest. Gasoline is full of character and funky riffs as Caitlin calls on the Devil to let her boy burn. The vocals are prominent and this will be a live favourite.

Take My Demons, full of monsters under beds and giving up, is delivered with a light twang over piano and drums; I expect this would work as an acoustic ballad too. Slam The Door has hints of pop-punk and I’d’ve loved to hear more of the guitar part to match Caitlin’s vocal where ‘losing you meant finding me’.

The Blue Highways – I Wanna Party EP

The Lury brothers – singer Callum, guitarist Jack and drummer Theo – return with four tracks. On the first bar of the EP’s title track, Callum bellows Bruce-ishly about a girl strutting ‘like a Kardashian sister’ over an E Street Band-style barroom arrangement. Theo gives the cymbals a workout and there are some fine keys too.

Try to resist the handclaps and woahs of She Moves (‘the earth seems to stand still’) and the fine energetic tunes Love Keeps Wasting My Time and Shut Up And Drive. The recorded version maintains the live panache and makes me want to catch the Lury brothers again soon.

Bob Fitzgerald – The Promenade EP

Bob has been on my radar for a while and has huge support from the radio fraternity. Produced with great sensitivity and charm by Tim Prottey-Jones, this five-track EP opens with a massive riff on the song B1G (‘Big’, spelled with a 1 instead of the ‘I’). Bob’s smooth vocal comes in singing about hard times, ‘running this that way’ and how ‘on the 3-6-5 we duck and dive’. It’s full of personality and the chorus is massive, as is the chunky solo in the middle. We don’t really have a Phil Vassar-type figure in the UK and I hope Bob appreciates the comparison.

I Could Just Stay is a pumped-up sex jam where Bob namechecks Brad Paisley (I bet he wants to get some mud on the tires) in his desire to not head home. Slow Drunk is a reminiscin’ song over a midtempo shuffle in which Bob tells a story of what I imagine is a teenage weekend and in the second verse looks back to those days long ago. Blue Sky Drinking is a phenomenal title for a song which reminds me of David Lee Murphy’s songs for Kenny Chesney, full of enormous guitars and wide-open vocals: ‘I’m raising a toast to my boss…Cheers, adios and I’m off!’ What a great melody from an underrated songwriter.

The final track, Ceri’s Song, opens with Bob clearing his throat and wanting ‘to do one more’ take of the EP’s slowie. ‘So how can I explain?’ he starts, over gently strummed electric guitar chords, singing of ‘the sunshine to my rain, the pleasure to ease my pain…the chorus to my verse’. Ooh it’s a wedding song, with a punchy chorus full of pathos and closing with 20 seconds of atmosphere.

I’ll snap up a ticket for Bob’s live show in 2022. It’d be a shame if he wasn’t booked to play C2C’s outside stages.

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