Ward Thomas - The Bowery District, Reading

The day before their 21st birthday, country music twins Ward Thomas are nearing the end of their largest solo headline tour yet. With a rising profile over the past six months, it’s a good time to take stock and see where the duo are now - and where they're heading. After national airplay on BBC Radio 2, including recent live slots with Chris Evans and Terry Wogan, multiple performances at the recent C2C: Country To Country festival, and a late 2014 joint headline tour with The Shires, they've had more profile than many others in their situation. Their live line-up, including a full band, shows that they’ve got label backing, something that most in their genre don’t get this early in their career.

Playing in front of a chatty Friday night crowd, the sisters struggle at times to contain the background noise; when they do manage to quieten down the drinkers it’s a sweet show, albeit not the kind of thing that really suits the start of the weekend. They deliver stories of songs written for their mum (bless!) and one about a life-changing meet with a stranger (‘Take That Train’), and when they want to change the tempo they pull out their genuinely excellent hit, ‘Push For The Stride’. In the flesh, their well spoken Royal Counties accent makes them endearing - as a technical issue aborts a song early on Catherine proclaims “I was about to sing then! I feel really embarrassed!" - and their harmonies are perfect throughout, showing the strength that being sisters brings to their music.

There’s a level of confidence too, that allows them to deliver country versions of songs as varied as Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’, and also two new songs (‘’Losing You’ and ‘Carry You Home’) which came out of more Nashville recording sessions and which bode well for a second record.

Even so, it's a difficult balance for Catherine and Lizzie: riding on a wave of renewed popularity for country in the UK, but not yet at a place where they can see out smaller scale venues like The Bowery. Will they be allowed the time to develop (both personally and their audience) before the fickle music business moves on to the next big thing? On this showing they deserve it.

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