Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Last year The Shires were the first UK country act to reach the album chart top 10, but now they’ve been outdone by fellow country duo Ward Thomas, who I first featured here in 2014. On Friday, twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas hit no.1 with their new album Cartwheels. They previously just missed the top 40 with debut album From Where We Stand, but they built an impressive following considering they were unsigned at the time. That album was self-released, but they’re now with Sony, who have turned their potential into a real success story. Thanks to events such as the annual festival Country 2 Country, there’s a growing community of country fans in the UK. This provided the girls with plenty of opportunities to perform for very supportive crowds, enthusiastic to finally have some British country music that wasn’t a total disaster compared to the US scene. Radio 2 has also been behind them all the way, allowing them to reach a broader audience than just those who seek out British country music. With a new Shires album on the way, for which I predict similar success, I think we can expect more UK country artists picking up major label deals in the year ahead.