There are two sides to the UK country music scene. There are the acts that are signed to major labels, or at least close to it, touring substantially inside and outside the UK, playing festivals and even appearing on television. Such acts include The Shires, Ward Thomas, Jess and The Bandits and Sasha McVeigh. However, there is also a quickly growing scene of homegrown songwriters and musicians who are making a decent part-time living playing small local venues around the UK, releasing EPs to iTunes and to sell at shows, and engaging in a rough-and-ready DIY collective that puts them on the same level as their fans. One of these such acts is Acoustic Journey, an all-male three-piece from Northamptonshire. Between Andrew Jones (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ben Gurney (songwriting, lead guitar, harmonies) and Andy Sammons (harmonies, cajon), the trio provide sparse, acoustic-orientated arrangements set to easy-rolling songs touching on love, heartbreak, and the realities of a simple working class lifestyle.
On their debut EP ‘Get Back Up’, the band – whose roots are, surprisingly, in rock and heavy metal – present back-to-basics recordings that favour well-constructed acoustic guitar lines and prominent harmonies that fill out the space where others might overfill with unnecessary loops and instrumentation. Lead vocalist Andrew Jones is, truthfully, not an incredible singer, but that’s part of his charm; the band’s USP is in their ordinariness and how they relate directly to their fans. In fact, they and the other musicians on this side of the scene mingle with each other as well as the fans, to the point where it feels less like the usual top-down approach of the music industry, and more just a bunch of mates hanging out and playing music. And that’s not to say that Andrew is a bad singer (besides, how many great artists in music history have been average singers), just that his vocal style suits the DIY nature of both the scene and Acoustic Journey as a whole. Certainly, he conveys each song’s story with conviction.
On ‘Trucks & Whiskey’, he muses “We ain’t just bourbon drinkers / We’re just small town feel-good thinkers,” and it feels like a perfect mission statement. This is locally-grown, accessible country-based music from a distinctly UK perspective, for UK listeners who just want to hang out and have a good time with people just like them. At a time when many UK country musicians still try too hard to emulate the American style (often moreso than the Americans), there’s a Britishness to Acoustic Journey’s music that is unabashed without seeming token or exploitative. On ‘British Summer Time’ in particular they take a wry look at Britons’ notorious reactions to slightly elevated temperatures, while ‘County Line’ is deliberately geographically ambiguous, and title track ‘Get Back Up’ has a classic English guitar-pop slant to the song structure that evokes UK Americana artist Claydon Connor.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, Acoustic Journey are not about to take over the States or get a major record label. But that’s sort of the point. At a time when polished acts like The Shires are everywhere you look, the UK needs an indie sector populated with bands like Acoustic Journey who just want to write and record with their mates, and have a fun time playing club shows with songs that are actually very well constructed. They don’t need to be anything other than they are, because they just want to enjoy themselves playing music, and there’s a lot of charm in that.
Visit their website at acousticjourney.co.uk.