The name may not be familiar but a solitary listen to SHADOWBIRDS is all you need to be put under the hypnotic spell of Red Sky July. Dig a little deeper and the trio behind the band will reveal their talents and you can start to understand why they have just put together a record that could well be unrivalled as the best 2014 UK release heavily slanted towards the country and roots genre. With an optimum length of 10 tracks and 38 minutes, not a second is wasted as the album leads you down a blissful path of heartfelt emotion whilst tipping its hat to the core essence of Americana music.
Before we celebrate the finesse of each track, let's unveil the prestigious background to the trio starting with Ally McErlaine who was at the heart of the Scottish band Texas’s 15 million record sales followed closely by his wife, Shelly, one half of 90s million selling pop act Alisha’s Attic. The trio is completed by Charity Hair who includes The Alice Band and Blur’s Dave Rowntree in her musical CV. Together the Red Sky July project has had some industry doors opened for it but real momentum can develop as SHADOWBIRDS follows up a 2011 debut release.
Whilst from top to bottom the album is soaked in a country sound swinging from all points alt to Americana, the elegant drizzle of minor, and not to be unexpected, pop/rock, only adds to this amalgam of sartorial elegance. From the very start where the band have eyed some mainstream coverage with the breezy single ‘Lay Down Your Love’ through to the dark and broody closer ‘Solitary Woman’ the vibes of appreciation continually grow.
The enchanting qualities begin to really kick in with the second track ‘Here Then Gone’ packed with aching sensibilities and an upward spiral that refuses to retract. The blended voices and country guitar twang illuminate ‘Losing You’ which references listening to Bonnie Prince Billy, the American singer songwriter not to be confused with the historical figure of Ally’s homeland. ‘Made for Each Other’ is a sensitivity inspired love song drenched in choral elegance which leads into the moving and jaw dropping track ‘New Morning Light’, a serious candidate for stand out song if one’s arm is twisted.
On the sixth track which could be ‘Side 2 Track 1’ if this album gets a deserved vinyl release, the band showcase a very roots orientated sound with a slow backbeat and graceful fiddle giving ‘Renegade’ a back to basics feel. The band have invited Anglo Italian artist Jack Savoretti to contribute to the writing and duet vocals on the classy ‘Any Day Now’ with the smooth effect you would expect from Jack.
To complete a record that never drops its guard, a swirling dreamy folk feel surrounds title track ‘Shadowbirds’ while there are significant hoedown vibes to the fiddle adorned bubbly optimistic number ‘Warm My Heart’. Throughout each song Ally and his accompanying pack of Glasgow based musicians serenade and guide the wonderful vocals of Shelly and Charity which are both sublime and divine.
Red Sky July started the year playing support to Beth Nielsen Chapman on her UK tour and could well end it headlining with one of their own to take this excellent record on the road. SHADOWBIRDS may be a left field entrant to the race for the Best of 2014 but it is usually now when the heat is turned up. This album has unlimited potential and has certainly put a marker down as a contender.