In terms of bringing country music to the UK mainstream, Raintown are one of your safest bets. They never overwhelm, and so provide something of a soft landing for anyone with negative stereotypes and little
idea of how much fun the genre can actually be. While we’ve always known they aren’t out to change the face of country music as we know it, their polished sophomore effort proves they stand just as tall as the commercial tastemakers of Nashville, beyond a doubt. They even have definite American twangs, and are so at home with the principles of country that they’re the first Scots I’ve ever known to use the word “trash”.
Often, as with fellow English country bands like The Shires and most of the modern Billboard Country Chart alike, the songs are not flooded with banjos, mandolins and slide guitar solos. For better or worse, Raintown’s new offering can and will fit snugly amongst the forever-popular adult contemporary offerings of Jason Mraz, and at its very best, John Mayer. It won’t alienate anybody, but unfortunately, it might not draw anybody new to the genre, and here lies the issue; it refuses to try anything novel, meaning they run the risk of losing their buzz. Their audience of UK country fans simply isn’t large enough to guarantee them successful jaunts in the charts yet. Perhaps being removed from their comfort zone would produce something really exciting, but for now, being a “UK country band” might just not be enough.
The set begins with ‘Writing On The Wall’. The chorus’ plucky change in tempo certainly pays off, as it enhances the song with a flowing anticipation
and a deft sense of energy. Sung with an audible smile, it evokes the best of Lady Antebellum, and their sound-alikes could certainly be in far worse places. ‘Better Beautiful’ at the halfway point justly highlights Claire’s voice, which is stronger than it’s ever been, and grittier cuts such as the bluesy ‘Shut The Front Door’, which contains two excellent guitar solos, provides Paul with his big moment to shine, too. Successfully, they can mirror commonplace themes such as the unsurprising “home is where the heart is” vibe of ‘Nineteen Again’, and it never feels anything less than authentic; these songs are able to stand in value next to any chart-topping US country act.
The three-chords-and-the-truth mentality is certainly present, and while they do almost nothing to develop it, the two strong vocalists have themselves a sturdy set, not just for the car, the living room and the bathtub, but also for the music venue. It’s an
unsurprising and blunder-free second effort from Raintown, and all we can hope is for a little more crazy in future. Tell a more controversial story, or strip the production back to its bare bones; that could well be all that lies between them being a decent band, and being a band who makes some serious waves.