RED SKY JULY – The Truth And The Lie (Shadowbirds SHADOW7)

Red Sky July - TTATLFeaturing former Alisha’s Attic member Shelly Poole and her Texas guitarist husband Ally McErlaine alongside Charity Hair from The Alice Band), the trio released their eponymous debut back in 2011 following up with Shadowbirds three years later. For their third, they again set up shop in their Glasgow studio, where they were joined by Ross Hamilton supplying both parts of the rhythm section and Mark Neary on pedal steel alongside very special guest Beth Nielsen Chapman, the Grammy nominated singer-songwriter having previously enlisted them as your support.

There’s no major departure from past form, a pop-infused brand of Americana that has drawn comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, but which is more often probably more akin to The Dixie Chicks on the punchier numbers like the prowling title track’s slurred groove a sit talks of having the secret hots for your best friend. That said, opener ‘Jet Trails’ has very definite spidery Appalachian folk colours, an influence equally evident on the Nielsen Chapman collaboration ‘Strathconon’ which, despite a Scottish sounding title, suggests more Dolly Parton’s hills than the glens of their homeland. The scratchy banjo featured on the lyrically defiant ‘Dodge’ further deepens the association

In-between they serve up a melodic and catchy collection of radio friendly alt-countryish songs which wander between the familiar relationships territory of ‘Taking Myself Back’, and the tumbling chords and catchy chorus of ‘Walking Country Song’, a break-up number that shoehorns in the title of any number of genre classics in dividing the record collection. There’s also the more pointedly personal touch of ‘In Black’, a fiddle backed, mournful paced number inspired by the marital strain caused by McErlaine’s battle with a brain aneurism, sung in the voice of an “old American Little House on the Prairie mother type.”

But, while there may be themes of loss, the overall perspective is one of positivity, in looking to make the best of things, moving on rather than dwelling on misery (‘Long Time Dead’) or, as with the mandolin-led ‘Earthwards’, remembering the good times.

Ending on the close harmony stripped back love song simplicity of ‘Sway’, it’s an assured and accomplished album that, regardless of them singing “your song’s too strange for Nashville and your face is not a ten” should find the wide audience it most definitely deserves.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/RedSkyJuly/

Ally McErlaine reunited with his lost guitar

Ally McErlaineIn July, Ally McErlaine – guitarist with Texas and Red Sky July – appealed for help to find his lost guitar, a mid-1970s Gibson ES 335 Sunburst that he was given when he joined Texas, aged 17. The vintage guitar, which is valued at more than £3000, went missing backstage at a charity concert in Battersea Park in 2012. The guitar, which Ally played on every album by Texas and on all their tours, was featured on the front cover of the 1989 Texas single ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’.

Now, thanks to Brighton-based photographer Martin Burton, Ally has been reunited with his guitar. “A friend, who had been staying with me for a few months, emigrated leaving some of his possessions behind in storage. I recall him saying that the guitar had been in lost property but no one had been able to find the owner” explains Martin. “I’d forgotten about it until I read a story online about Ally looking for his lost guitar.”

Tracking down Ally through his band Red Sky July’s Facebook page, Martin sent pictures of the guitar to him, and Ally was amazed to see that it was indeed his guitar saying: “as well as recognizing the case, the guitar has a coil tap switch on the lower horn and had the machine heads replaced with locking ones which made it distinctive”.

Breaking off from his tour with his new band, Red Sky July, Ally arranged to meet Martin in Sussex where he was reunited with his guitar. “I was surprised and delighted to get my guitar back.” Ally said. “I had a nagging feeling of loss over this Gibson 335, almost like mourning, I have had this since age 17 and had built my style and sound with it. I would like to thank Martin for returning it to me and looking after it so well in the meantime.”

RED SKY JULY: new album & single

ShadowbirdsRED SKY JULY – Shadowbirds

Album release September 15th 2014

‘Losing You’ – single release Sept 22nd

Red Sky July return with Shadowbirds, the follow up to their acclaimed, self-titled 2011 debut. Gorgeous harmonies, beautiful melodies, top-drawer songwriting, signature guitar playing and an Americana-inflected, alt-country twang are the name of the game for this accomplished London-based trio.

Red Sky July are husband and wife duo Ally McErlaine (guitarist in 15 million-selling band Texas) and Shelly Poole (previously one half of million-selling duo Alisha’s Attic) along with former model Charity Hair (The Alice Band and, latterly, The Ailerons with Blur’s Dave Rowntree).

What started as a “soul food” side project, one with no boundaries or expectations, developed into the band’s debut album that garnered wide media support, with Q Magazine describing it as “a timeless blend of vocals & intricate twang…, as atmospheric as it is emotional”, the Evening Standard as “a seductive, exuberant mix of voices” and the Daily Telegraph as “well-crafted songs featuring slick harmonies”. The release also saw support on national radio stations including Radio 2 (who described the band as having “mesmerising vocals, touching lyrics, beautiful melodies and a sense of self belief”) and appearances on national TV including BBC Breakfast.

Consummate live performers, a headline national tour and support slots with the likes of Deacon Blue, James Walsh (Starsailor) preceded them joining Jools Holland as special guests on his UK summer tour, returning later that year to perform at his sold out performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Most recently the band toured with renowned Nashville singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman on her UK tour, both opening for her and performing as her band.  Red Sky July also performed at the Scottish Music Awards where they were presented with a prestigious Tartan Clef award by Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.

Shadowbirds was produced by Ross Hamilton and Michael Bannister of Glasgow’s Rocket Science Studios with musical collaboration from Mark Neary and Ally’s Texas bandmates Ross McFarlane and Eddie Campbell, “the great thing about recording in Glasgow is that we can call on these amazing musicians to work with us. We recorded the entire album in one week” Ally recalls.

‘Lay Down Your Love’, the first single from new album, is Shelly explains “about asking for a break when you’ve really had as much as you can take…Does it always have to be the hard way?” and is a perfect appetiser for Shadowbirds. Themes of hope, love, loss and despair are often couched in contrasting music – the foot-tapping jauntiness of ‘Here Then Gone’ masks the desolation of the lyrics; whilst ‘New Morning Light’’s more mournful melody is actually about a positive change in the air.

Stories of relationships – both doomed and enduring – sit alongside tales of tragedy and affirmation. Elsewhere, ‘Renegade’ was written after reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy “we think it is how the book would sound if it had noise” Charity reveals.  Anglo-Italian singer/songwriter Jack Savoretti features, and shares the writing duties with Shelly, on ‘Any Day Now’, a song inspired by the diaries of Karen Christenze Dinesen (the inspiration for the film Out Of Africa).

When asked what they wanted to achieve when they started making the album Shelly simply replies “We just wanted to make something beautiful”.

Mission accomplished.