Charlie Greene – the lead singer of Nashville’s Betcha – is performing solo here in the second city, and it’s fair to say he’s had better days.

It’s been unseasonably warm (or perhaps as warm as it should be as it’s nearly May, I forget) in Birmingham today and Charlie, well he wasn’t prepared. He’s got sunburnt. “Oh well,” he smiles philosophically, “I’ll be the first American to visit England in the spring and go back with a tan.”

That happy-go-lucky attitude is all the way through his set here too. Perhaps because its first European trip, even “Jaded” sounds glad to be here. “Coincidental” showcases his fine voice – an instrument in its own right  – and “July” offers a bit of contrast, before he ends with a singalong “Losin’ My Mind”, complete with his cat’s pink cowboy hat on his guitar neck (something to do with honky-tonk’s…..).

Halfway through his set, he plays a cover of “Our House” (not The Madness one, the good one) and if we may paraphrase, was this a very, very, very nice set? You Betcha.

Let me be honest with you. I think I may be the only person in this room who has never seen the TV show Nashville. If it’s not football, cricket, snooker, or reruns of old Frasier’s the chances are I haven’t seen it. As such I wasn’t aware of the existence of Nashville until I reviewed Charles Esten’s album.

On the plus side, I guess, this means but I’m only here for the music. And, my goodness when Esten plays his first song, the title track of his album “Love Ain’t Pretty” then you realise, just how good a voice the man has.

Here, with his keyboard and piano player Andy Lucas, everything the pair do is underscored with tremendous emotion. “One Good Move” One of many songs here dedicated to Mrs Esten, sees the electric guitar come out,  but mostly there is a contented feel to this. Indeed, work like “Back In My Life” could have come from the classic American songbook.

“I Ain’t” (“I’m gonna work up a sweat for this one” he smiles) and “Candlelight” which was written with rich from big and rich and Eric Pasley are likewise classy and confident.

Esten found himself in the Guinness Book of Records for writing 54 singles in 54 weeks and plays “Halfway Home”  from this collection, tellingly though, he says he put his heart and soul into everyone watching him on stage you have to believe him.

There is a tune from Nashville in the shape of “No One Will Ever Love You (Like I Do)” Before Charlie from Betcha is back (it turns out he’s Esten’s future son-in-law), for a tremendously haunting version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound Of Silence”.

There is another cover, as  Esten pays homage to his big break in the Buddy musical by playing “True Love Waits”,  while  “Somewhere In The Sunshine”, one of his own, is a tremendous highlight and a proper tearjerker. The fact that “I Used To Smoke and Drink and Love You ( I Still Do)” is next provides a real contrast.

“A Road And A Radio” sees the jacket come off, and as he ends the set with “Down The Road”, and a cover of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova”, Charlie returns to beckon everyone on their feet and for an acoustic show things get pretty raucous, like the hunky tonk, if you like. He ends though on a solo and serious note as he plays “A Life That’s Good”.

That one in three minutes ready encapsulates what the entire show is about. It it’s words there is a warmth, a community, a sense of togetherness, a real sense of the everyman but an overall feeling that whatever talent Charles instant possesses ( and make no mistake about this he’s brimming with it)  he also appreciates how lucky he is to be doing what he does.

Indeed he told the crowd earlier that with his debut album, he was looking to, as he put it, make “my music my way”  and if you came only for the country this evening you might have been disappointed.  If however, you came expecting a wonderful singer-songwriter with more than a hint of Bruce Springsteen about him then Charles Esten absolutely hit the mark.

More From Author


Popular Posts

Latest Gig Reviews

Latest Music Reviews


Band Of The Day