Review: The Shires impress with great hooks and strong chemistry

The Shires at Bedford Corn Exhange. Picture: David Jackson
The Shires at Bedford Corn Exhange. Picture: David Jackson

Country duo The Shires kicked off their UK tour in perfect style at Bedford’s Corn Exchange on Thursday with a sold-out show in the closest thing you could call a hometown gig for the pair.

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have had a whirlwind two years which has seen them rise from relative unknown solo artists to a duo lauded on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Shires at Bedford Corn Exhange. Picture: David Jackson

The Shires at Bedford Corn Exhange. Picture: David Jackson

The first English country act to be signed to a major Nashville label, The Shires released their debut album Brave in March and Thursday’s gig saw them play a good chunk of the record, some choice covers as well as road testing a few new songs.

Joining The Shires for the night was solo singer songwriter Jonathan Jeremiah who put in a solid support set of acoustic songs.

While The Shires may be combined efforts of two, Earle and Rhodes were joined by a full backing band at the Corn Exchange and although some of their set saw them perform as a duo, for the majority of the night their songs were sensibly fleshed out for full affect.

After walking on stage to a rapturous welcome, The Shires opened with All Over Again before heading straight into Nashville Grey Skies.

Unsurprisingly, the night was littered with stories of experiences of spending time in country music’s spiritual home, Nashville.

Mid set, Earle and Rhodes treated the Bedford venue to some new material, opting to perform it in a similar way acts in the US city would, by stripping their sound back to a duo and performing sat down on the stage.

New songs included Other People’s Things and Dive – both which demonstrated The Shires plan on continuing where their debut left off.

One of their songs, written with Kip Moore, came accompanied with stories of hot chocolate and games of Monopoly.

The pair covered The Corrs’ Runaway while Made In England payed homage to their favourite things about living in the country.

After finishing with Tonight, The Shires returned with Black And White and a cover of Islands In The Stream, made famous by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

The Shires’ success can be summed up with a few fundamental points.

Earle and Rhodes not only have stunning voices, but also a genuine onstage chemistry.

This combined with the knack for writing pop-tinged country music which sing-a-long hooks goes a long way to explain why they’ve been winning fans up and down the country.

Starting a tour with a hometown gig is a brave move, but at the same time it provided them the perfect start to their jaunt across the country.

After more headline shows, the pair are set to grace even bigger stages when supporting The Corrs at arenas later this year.

The Shires played:

All Over Again

Nashville Grey Skies

I Ain’t Leaving Without Your Love

Only Midnight


I Just Wanna Love You

Other Peoples’ Things



State Lines


Friday Night

Jekyll and Hyde

Made In England



Black And White

Islands In The Stream