Asheville, North Carolina. Home of The Asheville Area Arts Council. Home of numerous musicians and artists. Home of a burgeoning arts scene. Home of Bill Pillmore, member of the original lineup of Cowboy, an early seventies band I hold in reverence. First I ever heard of Asheville outside of its name and location I heard from Bill. He moved there for the music and he moved there for the arts. Bill, like myself, has the soul of an artist, the big difference being that he produces it. I just admire and write about it. And, no, this isn't about Bill Pillmore, this is about Red June, a trio of musicians who recently released an album titled Remember Me Well with the help of The North Carolina Arts Council and, here it is, The Asheville Area Arts Council. Shades of Canada! Organizations to support the arts! And in Asheville! Well, hats off to Asheville and the shame they bring to much larger burgs which ignore and in fact put obstacles in the paths of artists, and to Asheville's ability to recognize artists worth backing. Cue Red June.
...and welcome to modern mountain music. Not the foot-clogging, frantic and sometimes antique side, but the smooth, soulful and roots-infused-without-overtaking-the-music side. Not that I don't enjoy the antique sidemdash;the offerings of The Hogwaller Ramblers and The Yonder Mountain String Band and The Hackensaw Boys and others hold permanent positions in my music collectionmdash;but I have a special love for music inspired but not replicated en toto by, shall we say, the "hick" side (and I say that with sincere reverence). I love jigs-and-reels-influenced music but with the harsh edges smoothed out. I love vocals without the thick southern accent and songs without the pride of ignorance. I love the human side of the musicmdash;the love of country and spirit and more than anything, love.
And as long as we're talking more than anything, I love harmonies, for vocal bluegrass and modern mountain music have harmonies like no other and it reaches into my soul. Give me The Seldom Scene or The Dixie Bee-Liners or Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and I am a happy man. Or give me The Honey Dewdrops or Red June. Give me two or three or four voices raised in harmony and I get high.
Does Red June harmonize? Indeed they do, and the great thing about it is that their voices come from three completely different directions. Will Straughan has a straight-forward lead voice which gently slaps you in the face while John Cloyd Miller's leans toward the softer and more textured and country side. Mix those two with the high harmonies of Natalya Weinstein, though, and you get the goods. At certain points, they blend into an almost organ-like instrument which can easily carry you away.
Oh, they might not knock you out right off the bat. Track one, Biscuits & Honey, though solid, is a bit of more-of-the-same, largely due to lyrics, but I forgive them that. It is a decent track and it only gets better from there. Highlights include the semi-Hank Williams/Lefty Frizzell flavor of Run Around, the flowing folk country (with old-timey harmonies) of Home Is a Railroad, the upbeat folk-oriented Run Boy Run and an outstanding cover of Neil Young's "Comes a Time", all the better for being dipped in Red June sauce.
Musician-wise, they hold their own, too. Weinstein's fiddle gives certain of the songs that lonesome train whistle for which country music is famous, Straughan strokes the resonator guitar like a pro and Miller's mandolin adds a flavor that would be sorely missed if it wasn't there.
The verdict? Thumb's up. Just how far up depends upon how really good they are live. If they are anywhere near as good live as what they are on record, they deserve a thumbs way up. Definitely a group to watch.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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