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The announcement which took the UKCM Team and all UK fans by surprise at the tail end of last year has got to be, as far as UK fans are concerned for 2013, the Country2Country event coming this March in London.

Whilst US fans (and those UK fans fortunate enough to religiously embark to Nashville every year) are to be able go and enjoy the annual CMA Fests, the majority of UK fans can only hope that their favourite artists will consider coming to the UK to perform for them.

Admittedly we have been lucky in having artists such as Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry gracing us with their shows in recent years, but an actual festival where UK country fans can experience several top artists in the same light as our US counterparts have done for a while, was something beyond our dreams. (Especially as the days of cheap direct air travel across The Atlantic looks likely to be a thing of the past thanks to our last government.)

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The buzz generated on hearing that eight top name artists—‘with many more to come’—were coming over and that Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw were to headline each of the two days made it even more of a must attend event. ‘A Solace to UK Country fans’ as our contributor Vickye called it when she wrote the news release article for it on our site. However there were some detractors, especially amongst some Little Big Town fans as they’d been wondering how their favourite band was going to fill the O2 Arena, after they’d announced that they were playing here in March whilst talking to British veteran DJ Bob Harris on the CMA red carpet last year, after all it’s a 20,000 capacity venue, that’s a big space to fill by any country artist, unless you happen to be Dolly.

Well now we know. Little Big Town aren’t playing their own gig as such, but instead are a part of something much bigger. Highlights of the event is being broadcasted by Radio 2 (home of Bob Harris) and the CMA, but why now and what could it mean as far as promoting Country to the current UK music scene which is over saturated with pop and R’n’B acts?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really excited about attending this event and as a music fan, having mainly through Twitter discovered how down-to-earth and in touch with their fans Country stars are, am really looking forward to seeing these stars perform and therefore be entertained without elaborate change of outfits and stage sets.

As a country music fan, I am proud and excited to be part of the ukCOUNTRYmusic.NET Team at such an exciting time for US Country music in the UK, however I’m also hoping that this event will be a turning point for US country artists and their reps to finally see that there is a loyal fan base here and for UK radio stations and music TV channels to start realising that there is an untapped market with huge potential for a new audience, but they must recognise it for what it is—COUNTRY (in all its modern contemporary form of rock, pop, rap, if you must)—not Country and Western of a bygone era and most certainly not reclassified as ‘adult contemporary’!

In some ways I am surprised that such a festival as Country2Country is being staged this year considering there was an International Country Music Festival staged last year at Wembley, which despite featuring Lonestar, Ricky Skaggs and Reba McEntire amongst the line-up, received poor press (well what do you expect if you send music critics who don’t get Country?), but it was also criticised by those who attended—mainly for its bad organisation and lack of more modern artists.

The story I’ve heard behind last year’s event was that the original organisers of The Annual International Festival of Country Music, which ran for 23 years from 1969 until 1991 at Wembley Arena had decided to bring it back in 2012 due to the renewed interest in Country music, after all back in its heyday the Festival featured country legends such as Tammy Wynette, Crystal Gayle and Willie Nelson. But times have changed, Country now has a contemporary feel which appeals to a younger audience who’ve grown up with YouTube and American Idol and perhaps that’s where the organisers went wrong and where somebody else saw the potential to step in.

As the only UK national station to officially broadcast highlights from the event, could Radio 2’s involvement of the event influence other ‘adult contemporary’ (I hate this label!) radio stations to play more Country music?, after all Lady Antebellum is played regularly on Magic and Smooth. It makes me wonder about their programming/playlisting policies. Are they so tied in with record companies’ marketing departments, that they are only able to play what they are told to instead of introducing us to new artists and genres that only a stalwart such as Bob Harris can still do? Why have they not picked up on the potential wide appeal of Eric Church’s Springsteen, or The Band Perry’s If I Die Young when they’ve subjected us to Charlene Soraia’s cover of The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go after it was used for a Twinnings tea ad?!

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If they’re after the quality of songwriting to appeal to their audience in the same vein as how Adele or Gary Barlow connects with their audience, they should be even more interested in Country. After all it was Adele who introduced The Civil Wars to the UK by having them as her support act on her UK tour a few years ago and apparently Mr Barlow has done his time honing his craft in Nashville during the Take That in-between years. If they want even more credibility look no further than former Eurythmics’s front man Dave Stewart, his latest masterpiece The Ringmaster General comes out of Nashville, he is also the man who came up with the idea for Reba’s latest TV venture!!

There is a certain vibe you get from Country Music which no other genre is currently doing for me and many others like myself in the UK, and the fact that artists from other music genres in the US are also recognising this and are relocating to Nashville (after all it is known as Music City) should be an indication to the UK that we should be listening out for it as well! But then again the growing band of us Country fans, already fuelled by the excitement via Twitter and other forms of social media, already knew that!

Let’s hope that this year’s Country2Country is the first of many!

As Kimberly of The Band Perry said when I recently interviewed her for our January feature:

There is also an almost rabid hunger for Country music here (in UK and Europe), and I’m not sure whether because not much of it is cos physically the artist are not making it over here. It just seems that there is such a hunger for it.

And she’s right there is a demand for it!

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