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The Best of British Country and Americana

June 11, 2024 9:27 am GMT
Last Edited June 18, 2024 10:26 am GMT

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Country Music might be one of the most quintessentially American artforms, but that hasn’t stopped singers and bands from Dear Old Blighty having a jolly good go at it over the years.

Back in the ‘50s Frank Yonko & the Texas Drifters, Slim Traynor and Hank Walters & his Dusty Road Ramblers were all flying the flag for Britain in country music, while in the ‘60s "Britain's Mr & Mrs Country Music,” Miki & Griff took their version of Burl Ives' 'A Little Bitty Tear' all the way into the UK Top 20 and even received a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry.

The Hillsiders opened for everyone from Marty Robbins and Jerry Lee Lewis to Gene Watson and Glen Campbell as they enjoyed over three decades touring all over the world, and even recorded a seminal album with Bobby Bare in 1967 called The English Countryside produced by the legendary Chet Atkins.

Usually though, the closest we ever got to homegrown country music in Britain was when the Kinks or the Rolling Stones dabbled in it. In the ‘70s and ‘80s it felt like country music was everywhere in Britain, but however much we insisted that Olivia Newton John was a one of our own, it still seemed impossible for any genuinely British acts to break through.

In 1992 the Rockingbirds turned up on Top of the Pops, but it was an isolated incident in a landscape that was being hungrily fed country music from across the pond 24 hours a day as CMT Europe launched into the homes of country music lovers across the UK in the ‘90s,

The Woolpackers, a band formed by actors from the TV Soap opera Emmerdale, reached number five with ‘Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll’ when it was released as a single off their album Emmer Dance in 1996. The album sold 100,000 copies, but it stalled at number 26 on the charts, and it would be almost another 20 years before a British country act would crack the UK charts when The Shires finally took their album Brave into the UK Top 10 for the first time.

They paved the way for twin-sister duo Ward Thomas, from Hampshire, whose sophomore album Cartwheels became the first-ever UK country album to top the charts when it was released in 2016. And just weeks after Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas’ album of crossover country pop hit the top spot, The Shires took their follow up to number three.

It seemed like British country music had finally planted a union jack in the country music sand, and ten years on, homegrown acts are regular fixtures alongside American artists at British music festivals. The Long Road festival taking place this Summer is no exception. Remember Monday, Brown Horse and lots more will be performing over the weekend of August 23rd-25th in Leicestershire, so we decided it was as good a time as any to celebrate the Best of British.

Below we run through 10 of the biggest and best British acts around at the moment. With bags more for you to discover in our Playlist of The Best of British Country and Americana you’re bound to find something that’s your cup of tea.

Listen to the full Holler playlist above.

Here's our Pick of 10 of the Best British Country and Americana Artists You Need to Know.

Twinnie

“I'm hard to miss,” Twinnie says laughing. “I'm nearly six foot tall. I'm British. I’ve got this accent and my name's Twinnie!”

It’s not the only thing that makes her stand out. After moving to Nashville in April 2023, Twinnie's boundary-pushing blend of effervescent sophisto-pop and country storytelling has put her head and shoulders above most of her Brit country contemporaries.

“England massively affects how I portray country music,” she says. “If it was a hit internationally, like Dolly and Shania Twain and Taylor, that's who I kind of grew up listening to. I think we're in a space now where there's so many versions of country. It's so diverse as a genre. I hope Beyoncé is really welcomed and accepted because she's doing an amazing thing. She's putting the genre on the map internationally for people that are not acquainted with country music. I think you've seen that with HARDY and Jelly Roll that get played on rock radio. It's exactly the same thing. I think we're in a very interesting space right now. It gives me hope and the creative freedom to just do whatever I want and see where it lands.”

“I get it quite a lot where people say I’m too pop to be country and too country to be pop,” she continues. “To be honest, I think all of it is kind of bullshit. I don't really believe in genres. I believe in great work. With all the controversy about whether Beyoncé should be in country music, and I'm like, ‘Does it matter?’ It's broadening the genre that wasn’t the same 30 years ago. It constantly evolves.”

“I had such an eclectic taste in music growing up,” she says. “Everything from 2pac to Billy Joel. My first job was with Brian May. I love ABBA. I'm such a theatrical person as well. That's how I grew up on stage. So, I try and put that in my music. I don't see music as having any rules.”

Twinnie has been breaking the rules ever since she self-released her debut self-titled EP in 2016 before dropping the Better When I'm Drunk EP via BMG two years later. Hit singles followed before she made mainstream waves with her standout debut studio album Hollywood Gypsy in 2020 - a sold-out headline tour of the UK followed in support of the record alongside performances at acclaimed music festivals including CMA Fest, C2C Festival and Bonnaroo.

Following her Welcome to the Club EP, which she released alongside an award-winning short film that traced the mental health journey of the project, Twinnie released the more subdued and reflective Blue Hour (After Dark), and now she’s readying its second chapter as she continues with her self-proclaimed ‘sad girl era.

“I don't want anybody to ever feel like an outsider,” she says. “I've felt that multiple times in my career and in my personal life. I never want anybody to feel like that. ‘Welcome to the Club was an anthem for what I was feeling internally. I love it when films get made with music. I'm such a visual person and I direct all my own videos. Welcome to the Club was kind of like the five stages of grief about a relationship. I went to therapy in this film, and every time we talk about a different issue we lead into the music video.”

Watch the award winning short film for Welcome to the Club below.

“Then Blue Hour was about my relationship of ten years just crumbling,” she explains. “He was just gone, just like that, and I couldn't deal with it really. So, music was the only way that I could deal with it. I was like, ‘Okay, I'm gonna be sad for a long time.’ But in order to heal, most of the time, I have to write about what I know.”

“This blue hour happens twice a day and I just thought that was a really cool concept,” she says. “I'm going on to my next project, which is called Happy Hour, and then the next one, I'm always three albums ahead. It's this industry that slows me down because I would honestly release an album probably every four months if I could. But it's such a lot of work that goes into it.”

Fresh from the release of the Max Boyle duet ‘Take A Break’, she released ‘The Greatest Love Story’ inspired by the true-life romance of her mum and stepdad, who met when they were young, but due to miscommunications and a letter never being received they went their separate ways for 20 years before they reunited and stayed together ever since.

“It’s a song that lives in the world of what could have been,” Twinnie says. “My mum's story is very poetic but also comforting to know that everything works out the way it should. If they’d have gotten together all that time ago me and my siblings would have never existed and neither would this song”

A true Gypsy, Twinnie grew up in the Romani Travelling community in England where her love for storytelling first started and took her on to writing credits for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Bryan Adams and The Shires. Alongside winning Best Short Film at the British Film Awards, since moving to Nashville last year, she also found time to tour with Lindsay Ell, Chase Rice, Russel Dickerson, Seaforth and Blessing Offor.

“Music makes my soul happy, and there's so much of it in this town,” she says about Nashville. “I'm such a community person. I love community. That's how I grow up. I grew up in the gypsy community, and there’s a lot of synergy to how I grew up to Nashville. I think cities have personalities, and this really suits mine.”

In November of last year Twinnie even made her Grand Ole Opry debut.

“The Opry thing was wild,” she tells us. “It was actually Jamey Johnson that got me on that. I just met him randomly at a listening party, and we were just talking as humans. To be honest, I didn't even know who he was. I was aware of his music, but I didn't recognize him because he's got this massive beard. He asked me what I wanted to do and why I was over in Nashville, and I think I told him I was a doctor or something at first, because when I'm out, I just want to connect with people. I don't really want to talk about music all the time because I do it every day. He was like, ‘Are you really?’ and I had to tell him, ‘Well, I'm actually here for music, you know’ And he was like, ‘Oh, I've heard that before,’ but he told me to send him some music, so I did.”

“I told him it'd be my dream to get my grandparents over before they popped their clogs,” she says laughing. “Sorry, Grandma and Grandad. He was like, ‘Well, let's make it happen.’ He listened to my music, and when he introduced me, he said I had made history for being the first Romani traveller to ever step inside the circle, so that was a big one.”

“I lost my mind last year,” she admits, explaining the reasons for moving to Nashville. “I went through an absolutely horrendous breakup of a ten-year relationship. Ghosted me. So I was definitely in a bad spot, and I just needed to get out. I needed a new life. So that's me being brutally honest. I never heard him from him again until recently. I just needed to get to Nashville because I didn't like being at home. I'd been in London for 18 years and I was over it. So, it was a great time to move, and what better place to come to than the place where your whole soul feels inspired?”

“I'm such a truth seeker and my biggest fear is not fulfilling my potential,” Twinnie says before she rushes off. “Regardless of if I get played on radio, or if a label signs me or I get played on the radio, it's irrelevant to me because I know at some point something is gonna give because I work far too hard for it not to. If you give up, nothing's gonna happen, but if you don't give up, something's gonna happen. The fame and the riches that are a by-product of success don't interest me. I want to use my platform for good. I want to inspire someone, and that's the beauty of music. You never know who's listening and what they're feeling and how you might change someone's life, even if it's got bloody two streams or 20 million streams.”

“I just feel like I'm out here doing it for the UK,” she says laughing. “And also, I don't know if anybody cares about me back there anymore, but I just want to do it to say that somebody else can do it as well.”

Don’t worry, Twinnie. The UK definitely still cares.

Twinnie's latest single ‘Girl In Your Songs’ is out now on IKAW.

Listen If You Like: Shania Twain, Kelsea Ballerini, Carly Pearce

Simeon Hammond Dallas

Twinnie isn’t the only one feeling a little moony this Summer. Simeon Hammond Dallas’ latest single - the country-tinged sun-drenched soft pop instant classic ‘Do I Die' - finds the singer from Camden Town, England, in a quietly existential mood as she looks back on the past two years and tries to make sense of all her successes.

After finishing 2023 with a showcase in Nashville at AmericanaFest and co-headlining Bush Hall in London with Song Suffragettes, she began 2024 by opening for Grammy-winner Allison Russell and making her Country2Country and BBC Radio 2 live debuts.

Raised on her parent’s eclectic record collection, taking in everything from The Cranberries to Ella Fitzgerald, Hammond Dallas’ own music is a no-fucks-given distinctly millennial take on Americana and blues that sounds like Bonnie Raitt would have if her songs had been written by Alanis Morissette.

‘Do I Die’ is available now.

Listen If You Like: Jillian Jacqueline, Maren Morris, Caylee Hammack

St Catherine’s Child

Named after the patron saint of eloquent women, St. Catherine’s Child is the pet project of transatlantic singer-songwriter Ilana Zsigmond. Born in England to musical parents, she spent the majority of her childhood in New Haven, Connecticut, bouncing back and forth between continents as her parents toured, but after settling back in the UK in 2015, she formed a band that reflected the Americana aesthetic that surrounded her throughout her childhood with the articulation and dry wit of her British sensibilities.

The result is the kind of softly stunning, mesmerising country tinged indie that Americans do so well, but we rarely pull off on this side of the Atlantic.

Every Generation EP is available now on Ki An Projects

Listen If You Like: Plains, Erin Rae, Courtney Marie Andrews

Brown Horse

Signed to the legendary British label Loose Records, Norfolk-based six-piece Brown Horse are setting the pace for melodic guitar-driven alt-country rock this side of the Atlantic with their debut album, Reservoir.

Invoking the spirits of turn-of-the-millennium alt-country artists like Son Volt, Lucinda Williams and Drive-By Truckers from the US, Brown Horse’s 10-track debut, recorded over just four days in a barn surrounded by farm fields and wetlands, is nevertheless soaked through with a peculiarly British kind of melancholy and angst.

Reservoir is out now on Loose Records. Brown Horse play The Long Road in August.

Listen If You Like: Nathaniel Rateliff, Drive-By Truckers, Uncle Tupelo

Catherine McGrath

Once the great hope of British country music, Catherine McGrath seemed to drop off the face of the earth slightly after releasing her brilliant major label debut in 2018. Featuring co-writes with Liz Rose, Jimmy Robbins and Nicolle Galyon, Talk of This Town, was a masterclass in Nashville country pop, but despite reaching number 13 in the UK country charts, a highly anticipated follow up never materialised.

Thankfully she’s been giving us reasons to be optimistic lately with shows in London and Ireland and rare sightings in and around the London live scene. She’s been teasing clips of her in the studio with Beatrice and Albin Alm, Ben Earle from The Shires, Irish Country songwriter Derek Ryan and Anna Krantz, even going so far as to release a single, ‘Next New Year,’ at the end of 2023.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until the end of this year for more new music from her.

‘Next New Year’ is out now.

Listen If You Like: Tenille Arts, Little Big Town, Ashley Cooke

The Shires

They may not have made it through to the final stages of TV talent show The X Factor, but Ben Earle and Crissie Rodes are very much the winners when it comes to the British country music.

Crissie Rhodes had been singing Dolly Parton and Faith Hill songs at weddings, pubs and clubs when she came across a message on Facebook that Ben Earle posted saying he was looking for a country singer to form a duo.

"There must be a country singer somewhere," he wrote. And there was.

Hailing from the neighbouring counties of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, the duo signed to Decca Records in the UK and UMG Nashville in the US, becoming the first English country act to be signed to a major Nashville label. They went on to be the first UK country act to have a top ten album and the first to receive a CMA Award.

Their recently released Undone recordings find the pair revisiting old songs from their 10 year career and stripping them down to the beautiful barest essentials.

The Shires' Undone is out now.

Listen If You Like: Lady A, Sugarland, Little Big Town

Ward Thomas

Following hot on the heels of The Shires were twin sister duo Ward Thomas. Their second studio album became the first album by a UK country act to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart surpassing the previous record by The Shires.

Born two minutes apart, Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas grew up on a farm in rural Hampshire and specialise in a quintessentially English brand of joyful country pop that feels as wholesome and fresh as having a picnic in a flowery meadow on a sunny day.

Following their most recent album, Music in the Madness, they released a playfully angsty duet with fellow Brit country star Kezia Gill entitled ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ and teamed up with Catherine McGrath for the anthemic ballad ‘If It All Ends Today.’

Listen If You Like: The Shires, Kelsea Ballerini,Maddie and Tae

Remember Monday

The British country trio made up of Lauren Byrne, Holly-Anne Hull and Charlotte Steele originally found fame in the quarterfinals of the BBC television show The Voice where they controversially chose to perform their own original song ‘Jailbreaker’ instead of a cover song. Hell bent on blazing their own trail from the off, the British public took to social media to applaud the band’s brave choice and Remember Monday went on to pick up the award for Best Group at the British Country Music Awards that same year.

Specialising in a unique brand of finger clicking feminist country pop that sounds like a cross between Destiny’s Child and Carrie Underwood. Whether they’re satirizing the way society patronises and demonises women or calling out sexist double standards and voicing their frustrations with everyday sexism, Remember Monday always sugar their incendiary gender politics with an empowering pop country gloss.

Remember Monday play The Long Road Festival in August.

Listen If You Like: Carrie Underwood, Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina

Paris Adams

After making her live debut as a solo artist on the Caitlyn Smith tour of October 2022, founder member, lead vocalist and main songwriter of The Adelaides, Paris Adams launched her solo career with fierce intent when she dropped ‘Gold’ at the top of last year.

Recorded in Nashville with Grammy winning producer Femke Weidema, the single was followed up by the equally fiery ‘Stupid with U,’ ‘Alien’ and her more reflective recent single ‘Trigger’ as she staked her claim to the throne as the Queen of British Country Music.

The Trigger EP is out now.

Listen If You Like: Runaway June, Carly Pearce, Danielle Bradbery

Ags Connolly

Country Music People described Ags Connolly as a “national treasure,” and we can put aside our competitive impulses for a moment to thoroughly agree with them on that. A country traditionalist hailing from Oxfordshire, England, Connolly has been transforming the venues and pubs of the UK into spellbound honky tonks ever since he released his debut EP, The Dim and Distant Past, in 2012.

Influenced by country outliers like David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck, his lyrics draw as much from singer-songwriters like Guy Clark and Loudon Wainwright III as they do outlaw country, and his first three albums are masterclasses in modern day country traditionalism, while his latest studio album, Siempre, takes the hints of Texas border sounds heard on his previous albums and peppers them with Tejano foot tappers and swinging barroom waltzes.

Siempre is out now on Finstock Music.

Listen If You Like: Joshua Hedley, Kelsey Waldon, Guy Clark

See below for the full playlist.

  1. 1.

    Welcome to the Club

    Twinnie

  2. 2.

    Do I Die?

    Simeon Hammond Dallas

  3. 3.

    Every Generation

    St. Catherine's Child

  4. 4.

    Shoot Back

    Brown Horse

  5. 5.

    Talk of This Town

    Catherine McGrath

  6. 6.

    Daddy's Little Girl

    The Shires

  7. 7.

    Carry You Home

    Ward Thomas

  8. 8.

    Hysterical Women

    Remember Monday

  9. 9.

    Gold

    Paris Adams

  10. 10.

    I Hope You're Happy Now

    Ags Connolly

  11. 11.

    My Hometown

    Mikala Fredriksson

  12. 12.

    Follow What You Love and Love What You Follow

    Robert Vincent

  13. 13.

    Wish I Could

    The Wandering Hearts

  14. 14.

    High Time

    Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys

  15. 15.

    The Living Kind

    John Smith

  16. 16.

    House of Cards

    Kezia Gill

  17. 17.

    Studio Apartment

    Chanel Yates

  18. 18.

    Tennessee (feat. Chris Shiflett)

    Sam Palladio

  19. 19.

    Ride Out In The Country

    Yola

  20. 20.

    Uh Huh

    Jade Bird

  21. 21.

    Warrior Daughter

    Wildwood Kin

  22. 22.

    Mona Lisa

    Roseanne Reid

  23. 23.

    You Can't Love Me Anymore

    Jack Browning

  24. 24.

    California Fire

    Bailey Tomkinson

  25. 25.

    Tamed by Tennessee

    Callum Kerr and Chris Andreucci

  26. 26.

    (I Think That You Look) Better In Yellow

    Ferris & Sylvester

  27. 27.

    Black Train

    James Dunne

  28. 28.

    I'll Never Leave You Alone

    The Staves

  29. 29.

    Long Gone Wrong

    Daniel Meade

  30. 30.

    Nobody

    Bess Atwell

  31. 31.

    A Little Love

    Jack Francis

  32. 32.

    A Full House

    Louis Brennan and Michele Stodart

  33. 33.

    Forget You

    First Time Flyers

  34. 34.

    Alabama Girl

    Jordan Harvey

  35. 35.

    To The Light

    Ashley Harding

  36. 36.

    London's Lonely

    Louise Connor

  37. 37.

    Beautifully Broken

    Danni Nicholls

  38. 38.

    It's Getting Late

    Yoshika Colwell

  39. 39.

    The Road

    Our Man In The Field

  40. 40.

    Runaway Car

    Peter Bruntnell

  41. 41.

    NOLA

    LOCKS

  42. 42.

    Happiness is a Bird

    The Hanging Stars

  43. 43.

    Sable

    The Roebucks

  44. 44.

    Dusty in Memphis

    The Dreaming Spires

  45. 45.

    Hold in Your Breath

    Steady Habits

  46. 46.

    What's the Matter with You

    Elles Bailey

  47. 47.

    When I'm Over You

    Sasha McVeigh

  48. 48.

    Better In Blue Jeans

    Laura Oakes

  49. 49.

    Waterfall

    Motel Sundown

  50. 50.

    How Long Have You Known

    Kezia Gill and Jade Helliwell

  51. 51.

    Devils for Witches

    Fin Pearson

  52. 52.

    Be Careful What You Wish For

    Jonny Morgan

  53. 53.

    High Heeled Shoes

    Megan McKenna

  54. 54.

    Could've Been a Love Song

    Gasoline & Matches

  55. 55.

    One Night Stand

    Hannah White

  56. 56.

    Raining In Glasgow

    Dean Owens

  57. 57.

    My Baby, My Sweet

    Michele Stodart

  58. 58.

    Women

    Daisy Chute

  59. 59.

    We've Got A Lot To Learn

    Danny George Wilson

  60. 60.

    5 Years Into Marriage

    Matt Owens, Hannah White and The Delusional Vanity Project

  61. 61.

    Moody River

    Holly Carter

  62. 62.

    Oh Girl

    Katy Hurt

  63. 63.

    Rolling On

    O&O

  64. 64.

    Needle On Vinyl (Baby Let's Dance)

    Laura Aston

  65. 65.

    Wherever I Chose

    Jason McNiff

  66. 66.

    4am

    Deeanne Dexeter

  67. 67.

    Leave This Town

    Jake O'Neill

  68. 68.

    Dead Inside

    Abbie Mac

  69. 69.

    Love Sick

    Eddy Smith & The 507

  70. 70.

    Time in a Bottle

    Megan O'Neill and Mark Caplice

  71. 71.

    I Wanna Love You (But I Can't Right Now)

    Bennett Wilson Poole

  72. 72.

    Broken Jaw

    Luke Tuchscherer

  73. 73.

    The Poet

    Katie Nicholas

  74. 74.

    Kiss You Now

    Jess and the Bandits

  75. 75.

    You're Gonna Break My Heart

    My Crooked Teeth

  76. 76.

    Home Again

    Savannah Gardner

  77. 77.

    Some Sad Songs

    Brandon Ridley

  78. 78.

    Helpless

    Robbie Cavanagh

  79. 79.

    Come Over

    Morganway

  80. 80.

    Everything's Going South

    Legends of Country

  81. 81.

    Gradually Learning

    The Rockingbirds

  82. 82.

    One Last One-Night Stand

    Pete Gow

  83. 83.

    (Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket

    Danny & The Champions of the World

  84. 84.

    Distorted Desires

    Demi Marriner

  85. 85.

    Move On

    William the Conqueror

  86. 86.

    Ain't It Funny

    Jackson Ward

  87. 87.

    Mr. Shame

    Emilia Quinn

  88. 88.

    Hurt

    Kate Ellis

  89. 89.

    One Last Trip Around The Sun

    Police Dog Hogan

  90. 90.

    Call Me When It All Goes Wrong

    The Rails

  91. 91.

    Haunted House

    Treetop Flyers

  92. 92.

    Everything Is Free

    Lady Nade

  93. 93.

    He's My Dad

    Gary Quinn

  94. 94.

    If This Was a Love Song

    Raintown

  95. 95.

    You Only Love Me When You're Drunk

    Devon Mayson

  96. 96.

    Thoughtless

    Clara Mann

  97. 97.

    Tassels and Flares

    Luke Flear

  98. 98.

    Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone

    The Arlenes

  99. 99.

    A Tear for Every Year

    Morton Valence

  100. 100.

    Devil in the Details

    The Broken Family Band

~~

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