Red June’s Tunes Range From Vintage to Original
When your band is named after an heirloom variety of apple, it's only a matter of time until some music critic plays the “cider” card. But with the distinctive sound of North Carolina's Red June, the metaphor is especially apt: “Beautifully distilled original Americana,” as one review puts it. “A dynamic yet refined sound that features striking three-part harmonies, tasteful instrumental work, and honest, soulful songwriting.”
The group, scheduled to kick off Beartrap's Saturday morning lineup, is currently touring on their second (and brand-new) album “Beauty Will Come.” Though members Will Straughan (resonator guitar, guitar, vocals), John Cloyd Miller (mandolin, guitar, vocals) and Natalya Weinstein (fiddle, vocals) are longtime friends, they had never jammed together until a spontaneous pickin' party in Asheville in 2005. The band officially formed in 2008, and went to work on creating the material that would become their 2010 debut album “Remember Me Well.” It got a very warm reception, and was voted the year's No. 1 regional release by the fans of independent public radio WNCW.
So their sophomore effort had a lot to live up to. But any jitters over those concerns were dispelled when the early reviews started rolling in, including one by Mike Greenblatt of Aquarian Weekly who called “Beauty Will Come” “...Maybe the most stunningly gorgeous country album in years.” Singer-songwriter Kari Sickenberger of Polecat Creek described it as “A brilliant integration of old-time, Bluegrass and beyond, it feels like a holding of hands. The blend is beautiful, world-class music.”
In recent months, Red June has been spreading that refined fervor to audiences across the county: from Nashville's renowned live radio show Music City Roots to the Bristol (Va.) Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Suwanee Springfest, the Shakori Hills (N.C.) Grassroots Festival, French Broad River Fest, the 25th anniversary of MerleFest, and more.
A verse from their original gospel song “Soul's Repair” (currently a free download at their site redjunemusic.com) gives an idea of the album's plaintive yet upbeat tone: “The sun comes up a little south in the wintertime / Must be a heavy load yonder for the long, hard climb / I like the old store signs, and the people are fair / There's nothing like a Midwest winter for a soul's repair...”
The group's versatility was a main selling point for reviewer Frank Gutch, Jr., of FAME Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange: “They can kick it with a reel, squeeze a country turnip until it bleeds, and tell a folk tale as well as most anybody, but where they really shine is their songwriting. All three have an innate feel for the music of the past and, without rehashing the formulas of the past, write in their own styles, fitting each song to their strengths.”
It was Red June's harmony vocals that most dazzled reviewer Chuck Dauphin of Music News Nashville: “Straughan, Miller, and Weinstein possess an airtight harmony that will impress even the toughest critic. Listen to their vocal blend on 'I’m Willing To Try,' and you may need to have your jaw surgically removed from the floor – they are that good!”
Fortunately, it's the type of damage that a good shot of apple cider will repair in no time.
Red June performs “Soul's Repair” on Music City Roots at the Loveless Cafe:
Red June's a capella rendition of the Ralph Stanley classic “I'm Willing To Try”: