Red Sky July - The Truth And The Lies

Shadowbirds Rocords

I think it was probably around six years ago that I first came across London-based trio Red Sky July. They were playing the Little Rabbit Barn House Concert in rural Essex and though they were a little rough around the edges, I was suitably impressed. I’d been well aware of the various members previous work—Ally McErlaine (Texas), Shelly Poole (Alisha’s Attic) and Charity Hair (The Alice Band)—and felt that they really gelled in this fresh new format and have watched and listened with great interest as they have developed into the polished act that they have now become. With harmonies and a style as unique as the bond they share, Red Sky July have continually refined and expanded their talents, while rapidly growing their fan base and already impressive repertoire.

This, their third album, is their most musically accomplished opus, with a fuller sound, heartier harmonies, meatier lyrics and crisper production. Their sound is adventurous and full of surprisingly subtle colouration ...there isn’t a fear that delicacy could be interpreted as a loss of edge. Delicacy is part of the edge.

The album chronicles affairs of the heart (both heartbroken and happy) and the sense of time slipping away (feeling at once optimistic and fearful), with the girls’ balmy vocals and the twangy guitars weaving universally relatable yet distinctive tales. The album has been self-produced, mixed and arranged and Red Sky July have brought in some talented additional musicians, including Ross Hamilton (bass, drums), Mark Neary (pedal steel) and multi-instrumentalist Dave Etherington (Wurlitzer, electric piano, percussion) to help flesh out their sound. The trio prove to be accomplished arrangers, giving each of the self-penned songs great mood and colour, allowing the lyrics to flow just as they should.

Opener Jet Trails is the sharpest example of Red Sky July’s sound, that indescribable mixture of pop hooks, country spirit, rock energy and folksy honesty. There’s a heavy sensual undercurrent, both lyrically and musically to the title song as the tentative step into an uncharted relationship unfolds in a yearning dreamscape. Taking Myself Back, the tale of an upbeat break-up, enforces the positive thought that the simplest song is often the most effective and that singing as they do is a universal necessity. Appropriately, Earthwards is more organic with bluegrass instrumentation and a trio setting that emphasises the value of space. The song breathes deliciously. Possibly the darkest song is In Black, which faces head-on guitarist’s Ally McErlaine’s battle with a brain aneurysm, but surprisingly from a third person angle.

Long Time Dead is a heartbreaker about the choice between following love or dreams with no point in wasting time on regrets. Though Walking Country Song is all about break-up, it features sun-dappled harmonies, some classic country-rock guitars and a country shuffle. Strathconon, is a  lovely blend of Celtic and Appalachian  melodies and gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies with special guest Beth Nielsen Chapman. They close with Sway, a majestic foray into sedate, country-tinged dream folk. Though red Sky July’s songs span many genres, they spring from the same grounded voices, and as a collection they form an eclectic, warm, wonderfully listenable album bound together by powerful songwriting.