Current members of the British Country Music Association were invited to a very special free concert Saturday night celebrating country music in the UK and to kick start British CMA’s weekend off in style. As one of those lucky members and upon hearing there was an ‘In The Round Session’ to kick it all off I knew it was one not to be missed. These intimate concerts are sure fast becoming the highlight of being a country fan for me. For anyone who is not familiar with an ‘In The Round’ session, this kind of set has a Nashville feel to it, where the singer/songwriters, accompanied by their instruments, take it in turns to introduce and explain how the songs were written and why the song means so much to them. These kind of gigs make you feel a real connection between yourself and the artist on stage and the songs they are singing.
Held at the Robin 2, Wolverhampton, this 45-minute session showcased the incredible talent and stories behind the songs of a mix of two Irish born singer songwriters and an American sweetheart; Megan O’Neill, Gary Quinn and Sarah Darling.
Megan O’Neill, the Irish beauty, usually accompanied by her band The Common Threads was flying solo for this acoustic session and kicked off each round accompanied with a Yamaha keyboard on stage. She decided to treat us to some new songs for her opening set on each round including her new single “Why I need you”. “Half of Myself” was a great opening song to instantly connect with the audience and with a positive reaction from the crowd we knew we were all in for a great night ahead. Ending with “Why I Need You” which has already seen success before its release – she explained she has been told this is being used as a wedding song for a few people and you can see why with lyrics like “The way you carry me when I’m weak” and “You’re the ripcord as I’m falling”. After a stunning stripped back performance of the track that blew the audience away, it was clear this song was a fabulous way to show off Megan’s vocal ability and is going to lead her on to much greater success.
Gary Quinn, the middle man of each round who has now swapped Ireland for the Northern Manchester life, was dressed in leather jacket and jeans. Teamed with his guitar, he kicked off his first of 3 songs with an acoustic version of a song taken from his 2016 EP “I Remember” – the fun track titled “Body Language.” Gary continued his set explaining his next song would be a song he wrote for his friend’s wedding day – for this reason it holds a special place in his heart. Gary decided to step it up a notch for his finale and ended on a medley of two of his hits from his self-titled debut album – the funky tracks with comical lyrics including “Make sure the door don’t hit you on your way out” and “I Love to watch you leave” had the audience clapping along to the catchy beat. It was pretty clear the audience was having an absolutely fantastic time.
Last but by no means least in every round was Sarah Darling. The American beauty was wearing a sparkly one shoulder dress accompanied with her heart shaped guitar. Sarah got off to a comical start when she had to enlist Gary’s help with fixing her mic stand. After laughing it off the first song she chose was from her Dream Country album – the classic “Hailey’s Comet”. From the moment she first strummed her guitar it was evident she was about to capture the audience in the palm of her hand – as the audience fell silent you could tell they were totally mesmerised in her song and voice. Sarah explained that when she returns home she is going into the studio to cut a few new songs for her new album – this prompted a cheer from the crowd. She then went on to introduce her second song which she classed as the saddest song she has ever written (with her best friend Jenn Bostic who has just recently snagged a well deserved win of International Touring Artist of The Year at The BCMA’s). The song with lyrics like “You can’t hold your whiskey and hold me too” it was clear this song titled “Wasted” had references to alcohol addiction and the choices some people face between love and alcohol when addiction takes control. A clear talent Sarah Darling possesses is being able to captivate any audience’s attention so much so that the room falls completely silent. This was my second time seeing Sarah at an In The Round session (the first time was at Buckle and Boots) and I was just totally amazed at how enchanting she was on stage and became a fan instantly. The final performance of the night came from the Nashville sweetheart and she stated that the UK ‘has a special place in her heart’ before launching into “Montmarte” where she fell in love with her English husband 5 years ago. The cute yet sad story of how it was actually his father who she met first, where she played a demo for him and he became an instant fan – sadly a while later his father died and her now husband tracked her down to ask her to perform at his funeral. They kept in contact and he took her to the city of love Paris where they fell in love in Montmarte. The elegant and stunning track was a perfect way to finish the night and keep us wanting more.
A must-see kind of night for any country fan and a fabulous way to kick start the BCMA weekend celebration, from start to finish the whole set incredible! This talented trio are going to take the UK by storm and I for one cant wait to watch them evolve!
Review written by Katie Louise Ingram