BY LESLEY HASTINGS
My final gig of 2023 saw me heading to one of my favourite listening rooms, North London’s Green Note, to herald in the festive season in the company of UK alt-folk/Country/Americana trio Red Sky July. Their early December show at this ever popular venue was a regular date for several years until “you know what” happened, and the speed with which this show sold out showed just how much their loyal fanbase had missed the event in recent years. As had the band, we were assured throughout the relaxed, fun evening.
For those of you unfamiliar with Red Sky July who released their first, self titled, album back in 2011, the line up consists of husband and wife Ally McErlaine (ex Texas) on lead guitar and Shelly Poole (ex Alicia’s Attic) on mandolin/ percussion alongside Haley Glennie-Smith on acoustic guitar, the two ladies sharing lead vocals and harmonising beautifully. If you’re wondering, Haley joined the band when founder member Charity Hair went back to the States to devote more time to her family …. or as Shelly says, “to be a soccer Mom”!
Playing two sets, we were treated to a few familiar songs from their back catalogue including the always popular “Already Gone“ (see official video below) and some festive covers such as their gorgeous rendition of “Silent Night” and “Fleet Foxes” “White Winter Hymnal” but it was particularly exciting to get a preview of new songs from their upcoming album due in early 2024. Originally slated for a 2021 release, it’s a project which we were told has been tweaked several times in the intervening years with the final arrangements making some tracks tricky to play live acoustically. But of course they all sounded great, Ally’s guitar work shining through as always (he even managed to switch guitars from acoustic to electric mid song at one point!) and showcased the band’s wonderful songwriting as well as their vocal prowess.
Highlights for me from the new material included the gorgeous love song “Stars Turn Cold”, “Stones and Brambles“ which was inspired by Ally’s serious health issues of a few years ago and is about sticking with someone through adversity, and “Pool Party“ which was played as it was written (a happy, upbeat song) but which apparently is much moodier and darker on the album ….. that’ll be an interesting one for sure!
Finishing the really chilled, laid back evening with a dreamy cover of the enduring favourite “White Christmas“ before mingling with the audience, the band gave all of us a lot to look forwards to next year for sure. Welcome back Red Sky July, bring on the new album and associated tour!
More details at https://redskyjuly.com/