Nashville in the Round

Simon Hale watches as quality travels 4,000 miles.


Anyone thinking that Nashville was only about country music would have been in for a surprise at the Kitchen Garden Café in King’s Heath.

Three artistes from America’s Music City took over a corner of the intimate venue to perform Nashville in the Round – a style of evening made famous by the city’s Bluebird Café. More singing in turn than literally in the round, they provided an emotional rollercoaster ride on a country, blues, jazz, pop, soul and RnB express.

Sarah Darling, Jenn Bostic and Kyshona Armstrong – all singer-songwriters in their own right – demonstrated their remarkable talent in an evening of heartfelt, uplifting and inspirational songs.

Each musician sang five songs supported by the others through their harmonising and using keyboards or acoustic guitar as the only instrumentation. Their dreamy and evocative lyrics about overcoming sadness, experiencing love and following your star were sung so beautifully that at time they sent shivers down the spine.

Sarah Darling, making her Birmingham debut, got the evening off to a “cheeky” (as she put it) start, with the delightfully jazzy suggestive number You Take Me All The Way. It will be released as a single on September 23 and appear on her new album Dream Country this is set for release in early 2017.

She continued her contribution with Where Cowboys Ride, a dreamy “love letter to Wyoming”, and Tell that Devil, a bluesy cover of the song sung by the character Juliette Barnes from the American TV series Nashville. Her other memorable songs “for all you dreamers” were of a celestial nature: Stargazer and her favourite song of all, Halley’s Comet.

Jenn Bostic, returning to the city after a One More Shot fundraiser in Sutton Coldfield for the Breast Cancer Campaign earlier this year, sang Little Grace, a pop waltz aimed at the judgmental from her new album Faithful, followed by the joyous Raise Em Up to Hollywood that involved vigorous audience participation. Bostic also performed Jealous of the Angels, a ballad about her father killed in a car crash as he was driving her to school as a ten-year old. It brought her to the attention of the UK when it was played by Simon Bates on Our Tune and subsequently reached number one in the UK singer-songwriter charts.

Bostic and Kyoshona Armstrong came as close as the threesome came all evening to sharing the lyrics of their own songs, with the beautiful What Loves Feels Like. Bostic had played it live the day before on the BBC’s Good Morning Sunday show with Fern Britton and it is currently on the Radio 2 playlist.

Kyshona, who was also making not just her Birmingham but also her UK debut, had a voice as sweet and as powerful as Aretha Franklin in singing her soul-filled spiritual songs. To the accompaniment of audience oohs and aahs, she launched into her set with the heartwarming Best of You and inspirational Do Nothing that took her back to her earlier days as a music therapist.

Both songs are on her new album The Ride, the title track of which she also sang as an affirmation of pursuing your own path in life. Her song Lonely, written with Bostic about her first two years in Nashville when “loneliness was my only companion” was sad enough to make your heart ache.

The trio returned for an encore in which they all sang Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold together. Let’s hope they all return to Birmingham soon because, like the song, these girls are pure gold.