Every time I listen to Red June's last album, Remember Me Well (reviewed here), I think of my father. Dad wasn't that musical. Neither of my parents were. I laugh when I think of them in the car, Dad humming poorly and Momma whistling in the wrong key, both engrossed in the music of the moment, me sitting in the back seat with both hands over my ears or pointing out loudly that they were destroying an otherwise pleasant song. I picture them in the living room listening to Hank Williams on the record player or watching The Mormon Tabernacle Choir on TV, their faces lit up with the joy of the music. Maybe they couldn't play, sing or whistle, but there were few I have known over the years who had a greater love for music.
Dad used to say that if they sang more and talked less, he would go to church, but of course they never did and he never did and since his death, the point is moot. It sticks with me to this day, though, because he was a hard drinking, two-fisted logger who cussed up a storm when things didn't suit him and who you wouldn't have thought would have been amenable to a church of any kind, just on principle. But how he loved those hymns! Especially those of the bluegrass vocal harmony persuasion. So when I heard Red June's interpretation of Bob Flemming's I'm Willing To Try, a song straight out of the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver playbook, I knew their new Beauty Will Come album was special. Unfortunately, the song is an anomaly on the album. Fortunately, they pack the album with songs so well written and performed that it doesn't really matter.
Red June plays a hybrid of folk, country and bluegrass in many of its attendant forms. 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. The main strength? Vocals. Vocals are not all they do, but they do them so well that you get lost in them at times. Three voices, blended yet individual, singing for harmonic joy or sadness or singing for the joy of singing itself.
They've actually gotten better at it. Oh, they were plenty good when they recorded Remember Me Well, but they've gotten better. You can hear it. There are shades of Tim O'Brien and Seldom Scene and Buck White & The Down Home Folks in the music, somehow. Not in the actual voices, but in the phrasing. It is a process, I think. They are processing well.
Yep, Dad would be pleased. His last years were spent in front of the TV watching the Nashville Network and CMT before money pushed real music aside in favor of the pap Nashville started serving up. Real music like that of Red June. It may be country or folk or bluegrass or any combination of the three, but it is soul. To Dad, it was. Me, too. Job well done.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles