Hear the latest chart at Mixcloud.com/Blastocast.
Since its inception, ‘Nashville comes to Greenwich’ has brought ears and eyeballs of British folk to some major-label country music talent. At the same time, the organisers of Country2Country once again invited acts from Britain to showcase their own sounds, giving them invaluable exposure on two free stages in the O2 complex, the Icon and the Big Entrance.
With that in mind, and with festival bills filling up by the day, I will put out a chart at the start of every season bigging up UK country. The richness of the scene and the many active bands in it mean filling 40 places is a cinch; I could easily have done a top 100 but this show would run for hours.
Broadcast in March, June, September and December with a Festive Fifty, this Top 40 uses a variety of sources to count down the biggest songs by country acts who live and work in the UK. Particular emphasis is placed on radio play on key outlets such as the BBC, Absolute Country or Chris Country, as well as mentions on go-to websites like Belles & Gals, Lyric Magazine and Your Life in a Song. Acts who are on tour to promote their material will also have their songs move up the chart in any given season.
To ensure that many voices are heard, all artists are limited to one song as a lead artist in one chart. Cover songs are permitted, as acts often push cover versions on their social media feeds and Youtube channels. I will always list the most recent release, one which is referred to by an act as their ‘current single’. In the case of an EP, it will be the track they have chosen as the lead track. In exceptional circumstances, ie if the act’s music has been played by a notable DJ or has had a life of its own through a viral video or recording, that track will be the act’s ‘single’.
The chart aims to reflect the diversity and munificence of country talent in the UK. Country has many definitions, but if the acts themselves call themselves ‘country’ or are booked to play country club nights or festivals, or are profiled in country-leaning publications, or are played on a BBC local radio country show, they will be eligible for the countdown.
Whether the act uses steel guitars and fiddles, or they create a palate of sound using programmed drums, if they classify themselves as a country act, they can have a song in this countdown. There is no ‘one’ kind of country music just as there is no ‘one’ kind of rock music these days.
For chart purposes, I am indebted to the likes of Casey Kasem and Bob Kingsley, and their production team, for giving me a template for a Top 40 countdown, while Pick of the Pops selects a set number of songs from that fortnight’s chart of a previous year and cannot fit in every song. The American countdowns last four hours – with commercials. Because I do not have advertisers or, indeed, the bandwidth, this show will come in at a modest length.
In any case, you know where to find their music online and, with any luck, this show will convert you to a fan of any act and you will tell three people about the act, one of whom becomes a fan and repeats the process. These acts flourish in the live sphere and put out their music digitally to promote it; consider the UK live country scene as a mobile version of the radio stations which presented acts singing live in the studio booth, like in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Over the last six years, I have heard some astonishing songs made by acts in the UK who have been influenced by sounds made in Nashville or Texas, but no charts exists to try to find out which is best. iTunes has its chart, where UK acts rub shoulders with Dolly and Johnny, and over on Blastocyst.org.uk I started listing 20 tunes every week that seemed to be gaining popularity.
I’ll probably invent some catchphrases as we go along, but you can suggest your own. Bob Kingsley has ‘It’s Top Ten Time!’ while Casey Kasem used to cry ‘On with the countdown!’ Fluff Freeman used to greet listeners with ‘Greetings, Pop Pickers!’ when counting down the chart, so let’s get going, Country Pickers…Hmm.
The UK Country Top 40 Chart Countdown can be found on Mixcloud.