On this side of the Atlantic, Christmas records are not really something we are familiar with. Festive songs grouped together in playlists or on that same compilation CD your mum has been playing through December for the last 20 years is part and parcel but having the same artist doing a collection of traditional, covers and a few festive originals is almost alien until you get into country music.
There have been a few I have listened to in the past where there has been a song or an interpretation that I have liked but collectively doesn’t keep me away from the Mariah, Shakin’ Stevens, Leona Lewis, Wham and Darlene Love with The E-Street Band & The Miami Horns playlist for long. That was until this year!
I know it’s only October and this year is highly challenging for us all but just on first listen to Runaway June and their new 5 track EP “When I Think About Christmas” I not only felt like getting in the mood but I know it is something that I will want to listen to again and again when the month of December rolls around. The only negative on the project is that I WISH IT WAS LONGER!
This is my view on two fronts, firstly it is a Christmas album that is really nice to listen to featuring a perfect blend of old, new and traditional songs that are in a variety of tempo’s then more importantly it is the first extensive opportunity to hear the sound, arrangement and harmonies of the trio since the introduction of Natalie Stovall into the group as they had only previously shared a reworked version of “We Were Rich” as the new line-up.
The overall observations of the EP do answer a lot of questions about what to expect from the trio in their new line-up. Naomi is still the lead singer with Jennifer and Natalie harmonizing, the harmony aspect is still the fundamental part of their sound but on listening to this you do get a feeling like when you listen to a Little Big Town track with Karen Fairchild on lead vocal that although there is a distinct lead vocalist you are seeing the harmonies over this based on how the different voices piece together and finally the added fiddle is very clear that it will be a big part of their sound (which I am a huge fan of) but is not revolving around it although it will clearly impact their melodies.
The EP opens with the first of the 2 original tracks called “Christmas on the Radio” which in the nicest possible way is a really cheesy festive track to make you smile. It has a real feel of belonging on the soundtrack to a Netflix original movie staring Lucy Hale or Camila Mendes from Riverdale that is the sort of thing you will unwillingly be humming along to even on the first listen.
The title track “When I Think About Christmas” is the other original song which was written by Jennifer along with Tiffany Goss and renowned Nashville lap steel / dobro maestro Josh Matheny. The steel is something you do also hear at other points on the record but the combination with the fiddle really explores an exciting sound melodically and this is the most “country” sounding contribution to this project. It has a real bluesy feel that would be perfect for two-stepping on the playlists of all line-dance friendly venues the world over and it feels Christmassy enough to blend in with the real country vibe to not push a festive message too far.
The three other tracks are versions of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” which most people will be familiar with The Ronettes version whilst the trio bring their own feel and sound to the song, almost how you will envision it before you hear it as they have not looked to overcomplicate or do too much with the song. A similar story could be said for their version of “Let It Snow” where again the fiddle sound is a fantastic addition but not overpowering and I think this really showcases the direction their harmonies are set to take. Then finally the centre point of the album again brings a contemporary slick edge to the traditional hymn “O Holy Night” whilst again letting their voices blending together being the focal point of what they are doing with the track.
This marks the beginning of exciting things to come for the trio, who I know are desperate to get back over to Europe (or for the first time in Natalie’s case) as soon as it is safe to do so and this festive offering not only gives a taste for the future but more importantly is a really nice way to build up you Christmas spirit.
“When I Think About Christmas” the new festive EP from Runaway June is out now and available HERE whilst you can keep up to date with Naomi, Jennifer and Natalie on their WEBSITE or on FACEBOOK TWITTER & INSTAGRAM.
TRACK LISTING: 1) Christmas on the Radio (Sam Hollander, Martin Johnson), 2) Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish), 3) O Holy Night, 4) When I Think About Christmas (Jennifer Wayne, Josh Matheny, Tiffany Goss), 5) Let It Snow (Julie Styn, Sammy Cahn)