My 2019 Live Music Review – Craig Brooks

The first thing I have to touch on in my review of 2019 is the incredible growth and progress of a Canadian artist by the name of Madison Kozak. This year saw the release of her fantastic EP ‘Heartbreak School’ as well as four additional singles with every single track across the EP and the singles receiving fantastic streaming figures which are still rapidly rising. 22 year old Madison also became the first signing to female focused label Songs & Daughters, a partnership between hugely successful songwriter Nicolle Galyon and Big Loud Records. Madison has all the talent in the world and with this backing there is no stopping her. Madison also took the live scene by storm, making her debut at the Ryman Auditorium in June performing on the same bill as the likes of Mason Ramsey and Keith Urban which I was proudly able to witness in person. In October she also got to live every country artists dream and perform at the Grand Ole Opry and received a standing ovation for her performance. Having also managed to fit in support slots on the tours of artists such as Mason Ramsey, Morgan Evans and Aaron Watson it’s a wonder how she’s managed to find time to do half of what she has. Set to join Chase Rice on some January dates in the U.K, Germany and Holland I would say it’s not long until she’s taking over this side of the pond as well.

Clara Bond is a singer/songwriter I feel very invested in and I believe I’ve seen her live more times than any other artist. I was really pleased to see her getting signed to Triple Fret Records this year as the sky is the limit for Clara with the right team behind her and I believe she has that now. We also got the wonderful EP ‘Crown’ from her this year which gave us a glimpse of the fabulous potential she has and the edginess to her as a performer. Clara is a criminally underrated artist but everything is coming together for her now and I have complete faith she is going to receive the plaudits she deserves in the near future.

If you’re a regular attendee of country gigs in the U.K you’re probably well aware of Vic Allen and Emily Faye. Both acts continue to show the maturity in their song writing and never fail to impress at live shows. The excellent EP’s both released, ‘Looking For a Real Thing’ (Emily) and ‘Enough’ (Vic) were further examples of why both acts have developed such a loyal following. I would definitely recommend catching both artists performing next year.

Rosey Cale is an artist who never fails to blow me away with the outstanding amount of progress she continues to make every year. Rosey is an artist who not only showed up as my artist of the year on Spotify Wrapped but also my artist of the decade and I’m not surprised with the quality of releases from her. Her first release of the year ‘Mary Jane’ was my most listened to song of the year, it’s a sassy and powerful number which really sees Rosey’s strong vocals excel. Later in the year she released the single ‘Keeper’ and her first Christmas tune ‘I’ll Be Your Baby’ which is more than enough to be proud of but perhaps even more impressively she also released Welsh language versions of both tunes. The proudest moment I’ve probably ever had watching Rosey was her first ever London show in July, I knew she would be good and I knew people would love her but even I was stunned at how she completely smashed that out of the park. I’ll always remember her getting a round of applause from the other artists on the bill after her sound check due to how breath taking her voice was.

A couple of new acts that have come out of nowhere this year and completely blown me away are Louise Parker and Poppy Fardell. Louise blew me away straightaway with the infectious energy during live performances and her phenomenal original music. She’s got the personality and stage presence to go along with that which is sure to take her a long way in 2020. Poppy Fardell I only came across in October but her single releases this year ‘Hayley’ and ‘Lose Myself In You’ have really put a marker down for the high standard we will see from her as a songwriter. She has a really distinctive style that’s going to help her stand out and I’ve witnessed a few flawless live performances from her that have me very excited to watch her flourish next year.

As a regular traveller to Nashville I get to witness the crazy level of talent in that city often and two artists I’ve been watching for a little while, JoyBeth Taylor and SJ McDonald both released their debut singles this year. Both of these girls are incredibly well respected writers and performers in town, it’s never a surprise to see a large number of other Nashville based artists in the audience any time these two perform. SJ is a regular with the Song Suffragettes and an artist I adore so much I actually skipped a free Maren Morris show on my last trip to go see her perform at the Listening Room, ‘Give Me Back My Heart’ is a great debut release for her and she is one of the most real/authentic country artists you will find. JoyBeth released both ‘It Just Takes One’ and ‘I See Memories’ which both received fabulous figures on streaming platforms. Its jaw dropping how gifted a writer she is and she sure backed it up with outstanding live shows this year, both in writers’ rounds and with full band shows.

I couldn’t possibly do a review of the year and not mention a few other acts that I’ve really loved watching this year. Hannah Paris and Mairead are such hardworking artists and despite always being great live acts they’ve continued to work so hard and keep improving. Remember Monday are my favourite band and blew me away every single time I saw them with those flawless harmonies, I’m so excited for how huge this band is going to get.

I have to give a shout out to a Nashville based artist called Morgan Johnston, who in my eyes is probably the best singer/songwriter in Nashville. She released two further singles this year ‘Whatever Helps You Sleep At Night’ and ‘Taillights’ which always go down so well when performed live, really impressed at how well her releases do when she’s an independent artist. She may not a household name in the UK yet but it’s only a matter of time with how popular she is in Nashville. One thing that’s always particularly impressed me with her is no matter where she is playing, be it a full band show in a bar, a writers round in a hotel or any other type of show it always feels like you’re watching a superstar, it’s great to see an artist so passionate about what they do that they give you a flawless performances every single time no matter how many people they’re playing to. Catching her live a number of times this year is definitely a highlight for me.

Finally I’ll wrap it up by applauding Abby Inez for putting out my favourite song of the year with ‘Bridges’, credit to Liv Austen too for co-writing on this. Abby has one of the most beautiful and angelic voices I’ve ever heard and it really shines on what is a flawless track. If you’ve managed to catch Abby live this year you will have heard some more of her original tunes and I don’t think it’s exaggerating too describe them as jaw dropping. There’s so much to come from Abi and I’m really excited to watch her thrive in 2020.

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