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2018 Country to Country Festival: 10 Best Things We Saw in the U.K.

From Sugarland’s big reunion show to Kacey Musgraves disco party, the London highlights of the international country music fest

Sugarland

Sugarland performed their first full reunion concert at the 2018 Country to Country Festival.

Burak Cingi/Redferns

Country music’s international appeal was reinforced this past weekend as more than 50,000 fans made the annual pilgrimage to the O2 Arena in London, one of three host cities of the annual Country to Country (C2C) festival.

For the past six years, a group of Nashville ambassadors, from veterans to up-and-comers, have picked up and relocated to stages across London, Dublin and Glasgow, for three days of arena shows, club gigs and songwriters’ rounds. It’s the only time of the U.K. year that you’ll ever find cowboy boots, Stetson hats and tour T-shirts in such a concentrated form.

Rolling Stone Country trained its sights on London’s O2 to catch sets by Music City royalty Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, the reunited Sugarland and breakout stars like Ashley McBryde and Lukas Nelson. Here’s the 10 best things we saw. 

Emmylou Harris

Burak Cingi/Redferns

Emmylou Harris

A London audience has always welcomed Emmylou Harris with open arms, and Sunday night featured more love than ever. In 1975, when the young country performer toured the U.K., she returned to the States with a newfound credibility, and the following year, she was releasing music that would cement her as a star. Harris was introduced by BBC Radio 2’s Whispering Bob Harris, a lontime friend, as “a force of good in the world,” and the singer set to work captivating the crowd. With an innate ability to inject every song with wisdom, grace and a portal back in time, Harris’s performance was measured and engrossing, with her slick and talented band, the Red Dirt Boys, supporting her through classics like “Making Believe,” “Michelangelo” and “Green Pastures.” The kicker: an outstanding “Boulder to Birmingham” that elicited much love from the London audience.

Catherine McGrath

Lorne Thomson/Redferns

Hometown Heroes: Catherine McGrath, Twinnie

It’s not C2C without discovering new music and a number of U.K. acts are creating their own special version of country music. Among them: the sweet, Irish-raised but London-based Catherine McGrath, who has a hint of early Taylor Swift and a country-pop sound strengthened by serious songwriting chops. Working with Liz Rose and Jimmy Robbins, she has an album on the way this spring, featuring the new single “Talk of This Town.” Elsewhere, Twinnie, already a household name in the U.K., thanks to an early acting career, is establishing herself as a future country star. Sassy, sultry and commanding attention with a big voice, the York-raised artist possesses a sound that takes in country, R&B, pop and rock. Along with tracks off her upcoming LP, it was her mesmerizing rendition of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” that stopped C2C fans in their tracks.

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