RED SKY JULY – 17th October 2011 on Proper Records
Red Sky July’s eponymous debut album is a gloriously rich experience from three musicians whose pedigree is not in doubt. Husband and wife team Shelly Poole (Alisha’s Attic) and Ally McErlaine (Texas) have joined with Charity Hair (The Alice Band) for an album of lovingly crafted, bewitching pastoral alt-folk that comes as a pleasing surprise and counterpoint to their earlier work.
As so many things do, Red Sky July began as a small moment of inspiration. Playing around on his computer at home, Ally emailed a piece of music entitled ‘Pretty Thing’ to Shelly – who was sitting upstairs at the time. She immediately plugged a microphone into her computer and starting singing along – the demo of ‘Morning Song’ was laid down almost instantly.
Possessing a new sound that Shelly and Ally were eager to explore further, the demo of ‘Morning Song’ seemed somewhat incomplete. Accustomed to performing with a second vocalist, Shelly initially recorded two vocal lines and felt she needed another voice to complement her own. The two of them decided to call upon their mutual friend, the American singer Charity Hair.
Formerly a vocalist for The Alice Band and The Ailerons (with Blur drummer Dave Rowntree), Charity had known Ally for many years, and had previously written with Shelly and performed at a number of her solo gigs. Sensing the chance to contribute to something new and exciting, the three agreed to get together once a week to work on material together. That one day a week soon became five, and a group of songs with a hazy, folk-inflected sound soon found their way into shaping and becoming a whole album.
This was in 2009. Yet 2 weeks before recording was due to start, Ally suffered a major brain aneurysm and was in a critical state for over a year. The focus, of course, shifted to getting Ally fit and healthy. Reconvening last summer – with a couple of additional songs and a new member in Mark Neary – Red Sky July were eager more than ever to capture their music on record. The album was recorded live in Bristol with producer Rory Carlile to give each song a sense of danger and fragility. As Shelly notes, “We can’t help but make music that sounds like it’s about to fall to pieces, but somehow it stays together.”
All three will testify that the song writing process for ‘Red Sky July’ has been one of the easiest of their respective careers, with songs and lyrics literally tumbling out as they discussed past relationships and experiences. Working with no boundaries or expectations, what transpired was an album written for the sheer pleasure of making music together.
Red Sky July’s debut album is a notable leap forward from anything they have been involved in before. While the lyrics mostly come from a reflective place, framing personal stories through a universal lens, they also make use of fantastical imagery to lend the songs an air of mystery. Meanwhile Ally’s instrumentation is low-key but varied and textured, giving each song little secrets and moments that do not reveal themselves at first, but create scenes and aural locations for the listener to explore and rediscover with each listen.
Shelly, Ally and Charity have travelled the world, performing and writing for as long as they can recall. Red Sky July finds them crafting a new sonic landscape, making sense of the magic of the world around them with breathtaking beauty.