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The Shires

Good Years – 2020 (BMG)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by The Shires

The Shires are a British country duo, but don't hold that against them. They don't sound especially British, and they also exhibit good taste in songs. Both Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes share lead vocals. Earle sounds a bit like Keith Urban when he sings, whereas Rhodes' voice is a lot like Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott. In fact, when these two harmonize together, as they often do, they sound even more like Lady Antebellum.

Also Like Lady Antebellum, The Shires lean decidedly toward the pop end of the stylistic spectrum. "No Secrets," for instance, is a fine song, even though its arrangement doesn't feature any overt country instrumental elements. Maybe it's the vibrato in Rhodes' voice - particularly noticeable during "About Last Night" - that brings Lady A comparisons to the fore. She's a vocalist with expansive emotional range. "New Year," a sad song about being alone on New Year's Eve, is one of the album's more acoustic tracks. Its piano-centered arrangement helps create the appropriately pained sonic. Oh, and the mandolin coloring "Thank You Whiskey" is much appreciated.

Ironically, in addition to The Shire's song about a bad start to the new year, the duo also sings a song set on the 4th of July. That holiday can't be on any Brit's social calendar, can it? Then again, this act performs American music, so they might as well also celebrate American holidays.

If you're a little apprehensive about hearing country music sung by a couple artists from across the pond, don't be. The Shires prove they're well worth our attention.