If there is a British Country band you need to be listening to its Red Sky July. I just cannot get enough of this incredible band!
‘The Truth And The Lie’ features compositions from all three members, husband and wife Ally McErlaine (guitarist in Texas) and Shelly Poole (previously one half of Alisha’s Attic) along with Charity Hair (guitarist/vocalist in The Alice Band). The gorgeous harmonies and classic guitar sounds on the recording bring out the depth of their songwriting. Their carefully crafted compositions work just as well acoustically, but the full band arrangements Red Sky July have orchestrated really bring them to life.
Lyrically the album is both considered and deeply personal. The title track is “about the delicious and excruciating feeling of being in love with your best friend (the truth) and trying to hide it (the lie), daydreaming about how that first kiss would be, and the lust and longing for something more.” The band are unafraid to be open and honest about their life experiences, fears, hopes and doubts.
Perhaps the most close to home subject matter comes from ‘In Black’, which is an autobiographical account of guitarist Ally McErlaine’s battle with a brain aneurism, told through the voice of a fictional “old American Little House on the Prairie mother type.” Shelly, who wrote the song, tells us that “the whole episode will stay around forever, and all the crap that comes with it. It’s great to put the feelings into a third person as if you are singing as a different character.”
The album was recorded in the band’s own studio, where they were joined in the studio by twice Grammy nominated, Nashville based singer songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman (Elton John, Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson). The drive of the rhythm section came from Ross Hamilton on bass and drums, and long time collaborator Mark Neary (Noel Gallagher, U2, Adele) added some authentic country twang on pedal steel guitar. A layer of classic Wurlitzer electric piano and percussion comes from multi-instrumentalist Dave Etherington (Kylie Minogue, Giorgio Moroder, Sub Focus). The band were hands-on at every stage, recording, mixing and mastering everything themselves.
Red Sky July formed in 2009. 2011’s self-titled debut garnered the praise of the critics including excellent reviews from Q Magazine, the Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph, with Q describing the album as “a timeless blend of vocals & intricate twang…. As atmospheric as it is emotional”.
2014’s ‘Shadowbirds’ came straight in at No. 3 in the UK Country Charts, with Maverick describing it as “a beautiful slice of alt-country showcasing sunny songs and gorgeous harmonies. 5/5”. The band’s achievements were recognised at the Scottish Music Awards where they were presented with a prestigious Tartan Clef award by Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
My absolute favourite songs are:
‘The Truth and The Lie’
‘Taking Myself Back’
‘Walking Country Song’
These songs would easily fit in the TV show Nashville and in fact they should be! They are exquisite and every track just gets better and better every time you listen to them.
‘In Black’ is hands down my favourite. It’s so passionate, heartfelt and I can feel every single word they are singing. Just top quality writing.
Review Written by Becky Lawrence and originally appeared on her excellent MusicandManxies site