Nashville comes to Essex – or was it the other way round?

Royal South is a trio of experienced, accomplished musicians: there’s SaraBeth from Texas, Vickie Vaughn from Kentucky and Glenn Mitchell who was born in Rayleigh (Essex) and still has family here.  You might think that they epitomise the Dixie Fields ‘Nashville comes to Essex’ theme until you discover that it was Glenn Mitchell who was the original Nashville stalwart. As SaraBeth commented, ‘It’s the one who came from furthest away who got here first.’ Glenn’s been working in Nashville for the best part of twenty years, playing guitar for so many of the top singers and proving on the way that he’s well able to hold his own as a soloist. (If you’ve a moment, just have a listen to the live performance he put out on twitter on June 19th. The technology wasn’t great, but what a guitarist!)

The  trio named Royal South is a relatively recent creation (they used SaraBeth’s name for a while) but all three artists bring established independent careers to the party.  SaraBeth sings eminently listenable pop country stories of attraction and anger, frustration and rejection while bass player Vickie Vaughn has her own Vickie Vaughn band. ‘I love to play in a variety of configurations,’ she says – and that’s a true musician’s approach. Just watch Vickie bringing out the charm and the character of her double bass – so significantly bigger than she is. ‘Has he a name?’ I’d like to ask her.  She and Glenn are both virtuosos on their instruments and their voices blend into one of those harmonic mixtures that’s something much more than its constituent parts.  They buoy up and support SaraBeth’s soprano until the togetherness becomes something palpable. And then some notes from Vickie come out over the top. Their debut single ‘Cry Cry!’ is a great harbinger of repertoire to come.

Individually and together they love playing in the UK. When they come to Dixie Fields next month they’ll be somewhere near the midpoint of a major tour but we’re willing to bet that their energy and enthusiasm will seem completely undiminished. Just listen to them interacting daily with their social media audience – or their actual live audiences, whatever the size of venue – and you’ll observe them pulling out the same interest, responsiveness and enthusiasm wherever they are. Watch them perform that great old favourite ‘Country Roads’, for instance, and I can guarantee that you’ll never hear them playing it quite the same way twice.  Perhaps that’s because they’ve all taken different roads to reach this point – and so the country roads that’ll take them home (wherever home may be) are yet to be negotiated. But what it really shows (as far as my ears are concerned) is that when you put three true musicians together and let them listen and respond to each other and to their audiences, the possibilities are unlimited.

Will they play ‘Country Roads’ to (or with) their Dixie Fields audience?  We’re expecting that they’ll do whatever feels right on the night.  And whether it is, it’s going to be genuine: it might be humorous, or melancholy or nostalgic. But we’re certain it’ll be a really classy performance, wherever those roads might lead.