Various Artists 'Country 2 Country' - Hump Head

This 20 track compilation has been released to coincide with the latest installment of this celebration of the current crop of mainstream Nashville hit makers  - with a couple of ringers thrown in. In truth I know the names and some of the songs but don’t particularly respond to the music itself. There are some names here that have made albums that I have listened to and enjoyed. These would include Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, the Zac Brown Band, Lee Ann Womack (though the track chosen, a big hit, I Hope You Dance, was never a firm favourite) and newcomer Doug Seegers, who is playing in London around that time but not as part of the main festival.

The vast majority of the songs here fit the over-riding themes of girls, beer, pick-up trucks and similar relatively light weight themes. There’s not a lot of drinking and cheating songs overall with titles like Girl Crush, Hey Pretty Girl, Homegrown Honey and Just One Kiss. These are songs designed to appeal to the younger demographic that is courted these days. Nothing particularly wrong with that as that is what the intention was. The party feeling is fairly constant and only the aforementioned Seegers sounds out of place in this company. I would hope, however foolishly that it might cause someone hearing it to investigate him further. Another songs that sound out-of-place is Vince Gill’s Don’t Let Our Love Start Slipping’ Away a song recorded back in 1992 when Gill was a regular visitor to the top end of the charts. Back then the sounds required to do that were different than today.

UK act The Shires have included their song Nashville Grey Skies, a song recorded in Music City that fits right in with the overall feel of the music though celebrating a place outside of Nashville.  Like the Shires both Raintown and Ward Thomas are duos from the UK who have tapped into the current county consciousness and sound right at home in this company. The final contribution is UK singer Alan West who delivers the most openly traditional country song here with Comeon Home and he too deserves further investigation.

Of the current Nashville crop Chris Young has the most obviously country voice and there are the definite sounds of pedal steel in the mix. Though that song was released a while back so that may have been lessened these days. The most prominent “country” instrument on many tracks is the sound of a banjo cutting through the heavy drums and rock-lite guitars. Carrie Underwood’s Jesus,Take The Wheel is one of those life story songs that fits with a song writing tradition even if this version is less country sounding overall.  

The Zac Brown Band entry is Chicken Fried, a jaunty song co-written by Brown that sounds contemporary and appealing. The album closes out with Martina McBride’s One Night. McBride is a veteran singer who has straddled the traditional and pop side of country at different times and has managed to stay in the frame against the newer acts. Overall C2C is a fairly representative sampling of country music as it exists today covering both those acts regularly hitting the charts and those on the fringes who are deserving to share some of the spotlight but likely won’t be let. No one is going to be completely satisfied with this album but it is what it is and as a souvenir of the festival it serves its purpose.