To country aficionados, Josh Turner will need no introduction and even three thousand miles from home his reputation precedes him, ensuring the Royal Northern College of Music is full of ten-gallon hat attired country fans each with differing opinions on who the biggest rugby team in the country is! With all due respect to Josh though, TFFT were in attendance tonight to experience his support act. There has been a bit of a buzz surrounding Lainey Wilson in the UK since her appearance at the Country 2 Country Festival, and with new music on the horizon, her star will certainly rise. Despite this evening being a more stripped-back performance, she certainly didn’t disappoint.
The lack of a stage, a backing band or the glitz provided by an elaborate light show may have hinted at a more constrained performance, but nothing could be further from the mark. The welcome is a warm one as she strides on to the performance area bedecked in her billowing bell-bottoms, which have become something of a style motif for the Louisiana native. Within seconds she has the Manchester crowd singing along as her opening track morphs effortlessly into The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ for a few bars, and from this point on we’re hooked!
On record, Lainey has all the rollicking attributes that you’d expect from the genre. Her lyrics fizz and the visual flourishes that she adds are Musgrave-esque in their worldly perceptiveness, but her skills are complimented by a rip-roaring band that are absent tonight. If this created a sense of uncertainty this evening, it wasn’t on show. Lainey has pitched a setlist that is nigh-on perfect and despite songs such as ‘Middle Finger’ losing the drive provided by a full band, her acoustic adaptations only go to demonstrate the prowess of her lyrics and vocal talents.
This song, along with its stablemate ‘Waste of Good Whisky’, are interesting ones to use as a comparison to Josh Turner’s more righteous gospel tones; Lainey is a spikier proponent of the genre and when she flips the bird to the diverse crowd is there maybe a danger of causing offence? Not a chance! The crowd are lapping this up and Lainey seems to be genuinely affected by the response, passionately exclaiming her appreciation for UK crowds and their affection for the music.
A new EP of tunes called Redneck Hollywood was released on Friday 13th September and we got a chance to hear some of the highlights in the impassioned ‘Dirty Looks’. The wonderful acoustics of the venue contribute to the rich timbre of the song, but it is her self-deprecating introduction and country-fied performance of Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, which has her new fans on their feet singing their hearts out, and moments later joining a long, patient queue desperate to meet and greet this young country star-in-the-making. Keep an eye out for Lainey Wilson because she really is a gem in the rhinestone-studded country music roster, currently emerging from Nashville at the moment.
Words & Images by Iain Fox