A trio featuring one half of 90s pop duo Alisha’s Attic and a former model may not immediately seem like contenders for London’s Americana crown, but when Beth Nielsen Chapman picks Red Sky July as her backing band and support act for a UK tour then you really should pay attention. Comprising Shelly Poole, her Texas guitarist husband Ally McErlaine and the wonderfully named Charity Hair (whose past musical credibility comes as a past member of The Alice Band), Shadowbirds, their second album, looks to the sort of ringing country rock guitar McErlaine brings to his occasional day job.
This nestles comfortably among the girls’ close, intricate harmonies and melodies that range from light uptempo rollers like Here Then Gone with its almost tribal drum pattern to the sparse backwoods slow waltzing Renegade (which they describe as how Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian would sound if it was music) by way of the decidedly Eagles-like country-rock Losing You, the fiddle romping, finger-clicking rhythm of Warm My Heart and the dreamy pedal steel slow dance Emmylou/Dolly hybrid of New Morning Light.
Recorded in Glasgow with assistance from McErlaine’s fellow Texas alumni Ross McFarlane and Eddie Campell, the album also features a guest co-write and duet from Jack Savoretti on Any Day Now, a song inspired by Karen (Out of Africa) Dinesen’s diaries, and one of the several highlights.
Having toured with Jools Holland and Deacon Blue and being featured on Radio 2, you get a good idea of the audience the music’s being pitched at. They should welcome it with open arms.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Shadowbirds Records