2015 was a huge year for UK country act The Shires. After breaking boundaries and having the first country album to break the UK Top 10, their debut Brave would surely be a tough act to follow. But with the opening / title track being wonderfully stomping and upbeat, featuring those signature overlaying vocals of Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle, it displays a natural progression, with ‘gravity keeping their feet on this earth.’
The up-tempo stays for the following two tracks and Not Even Drunk Right Now feels very similar to Friday Night from the debut record. Name-checking certain drinks within the song, it showcases the fun side to The Shires music. We then get serious with the ballads and in true Shires style, they tug on the heartstrings. The vulnerability in Naked and Daddy’s Little Girl breaks you into a million little pieces, somehow making it more beautiful and real, just how country music is. However, Crissie and Ben make their take on country music more accessible to the masses, if acts like The Dixie Chicks had not already taken you there, as both acts seem to break away from that country norm. In fact the only ‘authentic’ feel of country in this album is what appears to sound like a pedal steel in Save Me. This is why The Shires work, the harmonies that intertwine over the lyrics lend themselves to that Country genre but with a pop influence that creeps in regularly, for example with the up-tempo tone of A Thousand Hallelujahs.
My Universe is a very polished album and flows freely. It ends back with the slow numbers, with the penultimate track being the record’s stand out moment. Other People’s Things was showcased on their last headline tour about a year ago and captures precious moments to what others may think of differently. Being a music lover, the lyric, “there’s a T-shirt that the band signed that night,” strikes a definite chord of having that ‘secret memory.’
When The Shires first hit the UK country scene, they were an act that the scene was screaming out for and an act that could well and truly give the big US market a run for their money. It is great to see My Universe keeping The Shires charm that will see Crissie and Ben staying at the top of the game for a very long time, from the foot-stomping tracks to the heartfelt ballads.