Brandy Clark and Angaleena Presley at CMA Songwriters Series Oslo, 15th Oct 2017 – Lesley Hastings

I’m a huge fan songwriter rounds, so when I heard that two of my favourite “ladies of country” would be appearing together for one of these very evenings at a handful of European venues a quick trip was a must, with Oslo my destination of choice. Apologies to any fans of Marcus Hummon and Michael Tyler, who completed the line up and were absolutely superb but hey, this is a site dedicated to the fairer sex!

The venue wasn’t the most picturesque but the staff were fantastic and had done their best to make the cavernous space seem as intimate as possible, including having cocktail tables with candles on interspersed between seating, and the sound was great. The banter between the artists was fun to witness, and they were respectful and attentive throughout each other’s rounds.
Brandy has been host for this series of shows over the past few days, introducing the other artists and keeping proceedings flowing as they take turns to introduce and play songs they have written but always not necessarily recorded themselves. So, with all four on stage armed with their acoustic guitars, the show was ready to start!
A quick “hello,  thanks to Oslo for having us here in your beautiful city “from Brandy and the first of the evening’s six rounds was underway. 
Brandy Clark 
 Starting off by asking us if anyone had heard of Miranda Lambert  (you bet!!) Brandy then explained the way “ Mamas Broken Heart” ( A Brandy/Shane McAnally/Kacey Musgraves co-write, which of course proved to be a big hit for Miranda ) came to be written before performing the song with all the attitude it requires. Apparently it started life as an incomplete idea Shane had which Brandy implored him to save for her, and it finally took shape after Kacey told Brandy about her sister’s reaction to her latest breakup at a writing session.
Brandy’s choice for the second round was her ode to marijuana, the ever popular “ Get High” written specifically about a girl she knew in high school but which she says has so many people identifying with it she feels she graduated with many more than just her small class. A particularly big cheer came from the audience when she sang the line “ thanks for the Mary Jane”!
“Three Kids, No Husband” was appropriately her third choice, urging the audience to check out its co writer Lori McKenna, who had heard Brandy talking online about a single mother with five kids and thought that would be a great song idea…but that five may be a bit excessive! Ironic, as Brandy told us Lori actually does have five children herself!
There was a fun introduction to “Hold My Hand” for the next round, as you probably know she duetted on this one with Dwight Yoakam at the Grammys (apparently the pairing was decided by the powers that be) and during rehearsal he overheard another artist rehearsing (I’ll let them remain nameless but they weren’t Country!) and vociferously described their music in what I’ll politely call a “less than favourable manner” . Later he apologised to Brandy saying ”sorry you had to hear that cussing my dear“!
We were treated to a brand new Brandy song for her penultimate round, “Favourite Lie” got little introduction and is a bittersweet song in which Brandy sings about not really wanting to know if the loving words and compliments her partner says are true or not. But if they turn out to be untrue then they are indeed her “favourite lie” . Early on she sings “I’ve heard enough bullshit to know what I should and shouldn’t buy” ( not sure this will make it to radio!) and later on comes the killer phrase “an illusion don’t hurt til you lose it.” Apparently this may well be on the set-list at her upcoming UK shows.
Finishing off with the fun “Girl Next Door” Brandy told us how it was inspired by her friend and co writer Jessie Jo Dillon’s reaction to her boyfriend wanting her to tone down a bit. Brandy immediately knew they had to stop what they were writing and turn it into a song! She stopped in full flow after the line that references Marcia Brady to tell how actress Maureen McCormick, who plays that role in the Brady Bunch sitcom, tweeted to her after hearing the song and turned up backstage at one of her shows! 
Angaleena Presley 
Introduced by Brandy before her first round as “a real life coalminers daughter” from Kentucky, Angaleena started off with the title track from her latest album “Wrangled” (which a lot of the audience were obviously already familiar with gauging from the reaction) described in her ever amusing way as her ”nervous breakthrough song”. If you’ve ever seen Angaleena live, or even heard yer interviewed, you’ll know what a great dry sense of humour she has!
A tale of visiting a little grocery store in Sweden the previous day that made her think she was back in Kentucky (well apart from nothing there being translated into English, but it was “ awesome as I love learning new things !” ) preceded her next song…no, not the one you may have been expecting but “one that has nothing to do with that!” , “ American Middle Class”  of course the title track to her first solo album) .
A Pistol Annies Song was her next choice  written with my friends Miranda and Ashley” (cue a big cheer from the audience). Angeleena was in a bad place, going through a divorce, with a kid to raise and a huge mortgage that should never have been approved. Thoughts of burning her house down crossed her mind (a redneck reaction and something a couple of her uncles out in the country  had actually done!) but not her best idea as she was living in a city ! Anyway the situation gave rise to “ Housewives Prayer” which the trio  performed at their Opry debut….as Angeleena put it “when life serves you lemons, make Long Island iced tea!”
Round three and we were treated to the hilarious “Bless Your Heart“, complete with its sarcastic yodelling, which is a saying popular in the Southern States that Angaleena really hates. After performing this one she apologised that she’d forgotten how many blondes there were in Scandinavia, a reference to the line  “I know you ain’t that blonde, so don’t you play dumb to me”.
Next up she told us of the inspiration behind another Pistol Annies song, “Lemon Drop” , a further example of how “some good can come from a bad situation” as was the case with Housewives Prayer , this time round it was her redneck way of dealing with her muffler (exhaust in case you weren’t aware!) coming loose in the middle of nowhere that was the catalyst. Ingeniously she tied it back on with a guitar string, and it apparently remained that way for several months til she could afford to get it fixed! (hope she could afford a new guitar string, by the way!).
“Knocked Up” was Angeleena’s final song, a true story of how she came to be  pregnant and married (in that order) which rightfully evoked a lot of laughter from the crowd. Apparently her son sang it in the school playground (“can you imagine the looks on the teachers faces?” she said…. “well he knows that love makes a family but what he doesn’t know is that it also takes a lot if whiskey and Townes Van Zandt  music!”
Brandy rounded off the wonderful show by extending thanks all the artists, to us for coming to see them and to the CMA for bringing Nashville to all the countries on the tour. And to Callum who has “ driven us everywhere and sorted out a whole lot of crap for me” . Of course the appreciative audience weren’t going to let the night end without an encore, and all four musicians returned to the stage to perform a tribute to the late Tom Petty, “ Free Falling”, each taking turn on lead vocals and together harmonising beautiful to bring to an end not only this show but this tour.
Yes, as Brandy said, Nashville certainly came to Oslo, it was fantastic to witness the popularity of country music there, long may genre’s global support continue to grow!
Review written by Lesley Hastings
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