Whether you’ve been following Runaway June since they catapulted onto the country charts with their first single, Lipstick, in 2016 or you’re a more recent fan having caught them light up the Spotlight Stage at C2C in 2019… Chances are that you’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of their full-length debut album, Blue Roses, on June 28.
Take one look at the fellow songwriters enlisted by Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne to help express who Runaway June are after 4 years together and you’ll be sitting down for your first listen with extremely high expectations and perhaps also a sense of calm that this can’t possibly disappoint. I mean we’re talking the heavyweights of country music hit-makers here – Liz Rose, Hilary Lindsey, Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galyon, busbee, Ashley Gorley and the list goes on.
Indeed, it does not disappoint. Runaway June have assembled a collection of 10 songs which will only add momentum to their ongoing runaway success. In case you’ve missed the buzz: just this last week they became the first all-female group to crack the Country Airplay top 20 in nearly a decade and a half, and they’re sitting at the cusp of top 15 this week. Their sultry vocal blend, unique spin on traditional country sounds, and compelling personalities has also earned them an ACM nomination for New Group of the Year.
Blue Roses is an effortless and ever-switching journey from fast to slow and back again in such a carefully crafted manner that it could easily provide a blueprint for other artists and producers of how to weave a set of tracks together to form an album. Sure, you might feel a little gutted that you only get a 32 minute run or that you’ve already had 4 of the 10 songs on the album on repeat since their self-titled EP was released in September 2018, but these songs take on new life in the context of the album, and the yearning for more you feel at the end of the 32 minutes? It’s the sort that’ll have you reaching for your repeat button and keeping it stuck there for days.
Similar in feel, melody and empowerment theme of their current single and lead single of the album, Buy My Own Drinks, Blue Roses kicks off with the tongue-in cheek Head over Heels which showcases the clever song-writing that has become almost as trademark Runaway June as their harmonies: “’Cause these ain’t my late night, lace up, black leather shoes / … / These ain’t my “you get drunk, call me up, and head over” heels”. From here we travel across back-home stories of growing up in We Were Rich, to giving love a new chance and embracing the acceptance that someone who loves you gives you in I Know The Way and Good Bad & Ugly, all the way back to devastating post-breakup struggles as depicted in Trouble with This Town and I Am Too. It’s wide-reaching in content and sound, vulnerable and strong, oscillating between catchy hooks and smooth melodies.
Then, just as we reach the last track of the album, most of the production is stripped back and we meet the title track, Blue Roses. Written about losing people that we love, and for Cooke with her brother who died in a car accident in mind, that it is a deeply personal song to the trio shines through. It is hard-hitting, it is stunning, and it is the very best showcase of their harmonies. While the indisputable Runaway June harmonies are delicately dialled up and down throughout the album, there is no doubt that they provide the golden thread. Upon hearing the last 30 seconds of Blue Roses, it becomes abundantly clear that they have stitched together a masterpiece.
Review written by Nathalie Larsen (https://twitter.com/NathalieSLarsen)