- As if scoring the fastest-selling UK country album in history and scooping an armful of British Country Music Association awards wasn’t impressive enough, The Shires boast the distinction of being the first British country music band ever to sign to a major Nashville label. Endorsements like these have clearly done wonders for the duo’s confidence, because this third long-player finds band members Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes capitalising on their early success with a set that seems precision-engineered for a big pop/country crossover. Think aching pedal steel, heart-on-sleeve emoting, tight-knit vocal harmonies and the kind of sweeping melodies that should easily reach the furthest corners of the stadium-capacity venues they’re aiming for.
- In the pantheon of unexpected musical collaborations, Sting and Shaggy joining forces surely ranks up there with Texas and Method Man, Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips, and Jay-Z and, er, Another Level. Thing is, it actually transpires that the former Police-frontman is genuinely firm friends with Jamaica’s least convincing adultery-denier, having initially teamed up for a one-off collaboration in the summer of 2017. United by their shared love of reggae and dancehall, they’ve now conjured an album that Shaggy is billing as “exactly the record the world needs now.” The jury’s still out on whether 44/876 is essential as all that but, with its Caribbean-flavoured stylings, its pre-summer release is certainly extremely timely.