Country Jukebox Jury: Madeline Edwards and Seaforth

Madeline Edwards EP

One of the acts who is set to convert hundreds of people to her church at The Long Road this weekend (August 26-28) is Madeline Edwards. She’s part of Rissi Palmer’s guest curation of a stage full of artists she plays on her Color Me Country show on Apple Music.

A recent five-track self-titled EP offers a soupcon of what Madeline does. Hold My Horses will make a stunning set opener, with bluesy riffs and an excellent vocal style. Heart You Can’t Break is driven by a shuffle beat and the sort of instrumentation Yola has employed on her last album, or indeed Kacey Musgraves on High Horse. Its excellence is helped by the presence of Wyatt Durette, one of the secret weapons of country music from Zac Brown to Luke Combs, in the writer’s room.

Why I’m Calling rather undercuts the strength of that previous track, as Madeline’s narrator sings that the dishwasher ‘ain’t the only thing that’s broken’. There are wind chimes and whippoorwills in the chorus and wicker chairs in the second verse. Port City is a wistful number where Madeline heads somewhere new, feeling lost and hoping she finds what she’s looking for. ‘Fifteen dollar drinks’ and a ‘burned-out cover band’ must put her in Nashville, but this isn’t the city of dreams.

The Road, which has been streamed a phenomenal number of times, closes the set. It’s a love song where Madeline is saved from ‘drowning in the depths of my misery’ by a companion. The Long Road audience will go berserk for this and Madeline will return to the UK again soon.

Seaforth – What I Get For Loving You

You don’t get signed to Sony Music without being good. Mitch and Tom, aka Seaforth after the Sydney suburb they grew up in, came over to the UK for Country2Country to introduce themselves to a European market before the launch of this eight-track debut. They were due to support label mate Chris Young for four dates plus a mainstage set at The Long Road, but Chris couldn’t travel which threw their plans into chaos.

Sony need to make a return on their investment, so Seaforth probably went to sit in a marketing meeting with Sony and work out how to make money from their talent. This brings to mind their Long Road headliner Marty Stuart’s words about Nashville being a guy with a briefcase in one hand and a guitar case in the other. So how have Seaforth set out their stall?

By bringing in Sean ‘Beautiful Girls’ Kingston for a facsimile of a facsimile. Queen of Daytona Beach is certainly fun, with its bright Dann Huff production and beach-friendly lyrics (‘Jack Dan on the ‘Gram’). It made people sit up and take note about the guys, who sound like they have swallowed a Keith Urban concert DVD, but listeners were perhaps more likely to go and hear the Sean Kingston song from 15 years ago.

Queen of Daytona Beach is nowhere near as great as their breakout hit Breakups, which finds its rightful place on the album with its mandolin riffs and heartache all over the melody. Oddly it never charted, but that’s not the point any more when kids are more likely to stream the song than wait for it to come on between beer commercials and request the song on their favourite station. The instant comfort offered by the song which outlines how ‘breakups don’t work like that’ will chime with many listeners who aren’t served by country radio.

Dr Phil is another breakup song. Its great title feels rather shoehorned into a pop song, complete with a na-na hook, about throwing out the ex’s shampoo and getting ‘drunk as hell’. The title track is a proper song with an arresting first line: ‘When we first met I know that you were gonna break my heart’. I can imagine it, as could probably the Sony suits looking at their quarterly projections, being sung by Shawn Mendes, who can also transfer emotional vulnerability.

Palm of Your Hand has that Hunter Hayes or Shay Mooney trick of talk-singing the verses and opening up for a massive chorus, here about the guys being ‘the ice in your glass…ain’t just whiskey in the palm of your hand’, which is a great and vivid lyric. The pop-friendly production mirrors the type heard on Jordan Davis’ tunes, and it’s handy that the guys have drafted Jordan in on the perky drinking song Good Beer.

Yep, those songs make money every summer, so it’s the equivalent of printing money. So do wedding songs, and Seaforth offer Used To It (‘every touch still drives me wild’) and Magic (‘even when it’s raining it’s still Paris’), both of which will make couples hold each other tighter in the gigs.

So close is the product to what Dan + Shay offer that the boys could sue, but because both chaps sing lead it is actually more Shay + Shay. I bet that lazy joke will be made often as Seaforth tour to make back their advance. Such are the perils of being locked into a major-label deal.

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