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Fresh Listen: Chris Country

Chris Country Radio London UK United KingdomCountry radio in the U.K., when it existed, tended to be an odd mix of traditional Country with what would come to be known as Americana, and occasionally a song or two that Americans would never think of as Country. In the same way that it takes experimenting rockers like Kid Rock or Aaron Lewis to bring a traditional-leaning song to Country radio, it took Europeans to try and keep it Country on the radio.

U.K. Country was a rootsy, almost fetishized version of Country. As with the AC-leaning Country radio in the Northeast U.S., it was believed that this was what Country radio had to do to survive. Except that Country didn’t always survive in the Northeast, or on the U.K. dial.

Country in the Northeast U.S. these days is often as contemporary and as aggressive as anywhere else. And on Chris Country, chriscountry.co.uk the brainchild of jingle magnate Chris Stevens, that has been filling the hole for four years, there are only the slightest traces of U.K. Country’s previous eclecticism. I heard a stager that began “whether you like Rascal Flatts…” and waited for a more traditional counterpart. But the next names were Taylor Swift and Big & Rich.

Chris Country is mostly recent. The Classic Country I heard was a ‘90s double play, not Johnny Cash. There was only one possible sign of outreach to a cume not intimately familiar with the format—playing Tebey’s Canadian hit cover (never circulated in the U.S.) of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.” And the Americana aspect didn’t go any further than Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton.

Then again, hearing Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton, especially on the same station in the same hour, is not that easy on Country radio in the States. It’s mostly in the nuances, but the hour of Chris Country I heard recently played like a Grammy voter’s version of mainstream Country radio.

Some Ross On Radio readers will undoubtedly find it a more pleasing version of the format than Country radio doing what it has to do to survive in most U.S. markets. And some will like Chris Country for the spotload—even with national sponsors, the hour I heard had five units (and top-of-the-hour news).

As the top-of-the-hour ID notes, Chris Country is heard on the local digital radio dial in Manchester, Cambridge, Portsmouth, “and [for about a year] now also on air across London and beyond.”

Here’s Chris Country at 11 a.m. on April 25:

  • Kenny Chesney, Bar at the End of the World
  • Tebey f/Emerson Drive, Wake Me Up 
  • Blake Shelton, Mine Would Be You
  • Kacey Musgroves, Merry Go ‘Round
  • William Michael Morgan, Missing
  • Garth Brooks, Rodeo (staged as ‘90s double-play)
  • David Lee Murphy, Dust On The Bottle
  • Jason Aldean, Gonna Know We Were Here
  • Brett Young, In Case You Didn’t Know
  • Cole Swindell, Ain’t Worth The Whiskey
  • Drake White, Makin’ Me Look Good Again
  • George Strait, Cowboys Like Us
  • Chris Stapleton, Broken Halos
  • Bon Jovi, Who Says You Can’t Go Home
  • Little Big Town, Girl Crush
  • Aaron Watson, Outta Style
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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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