ALBUM REVIEW: Runaway June – ‘Blue Roses’

This has been without doubt one of my most-anticipated releases of 2019 – the debut album from Runaway June, ‘Blue Roses’. Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne emerged back in 2016 with the super-catchy ‘Lipstick’, and followed it up with the stunning ‘Wild West’, which is when we really started to latch on at YLIAS HQ. They gave us a teaser of the album with their debut EP last year, and it was clear there was something special there. ‘I Am Too’, ‘Got Me Where I Want You’ and the Dwight Yoakam cover ‘Fast As You’ became ever-presents on our playlists, alongside ‘Buy My Own Drinks’ which, at the time of writing this, is sitting at #16 on country radio and just keeps on climbing.

The girls co-wrote 6 of the 10 tracks on the album, which gives the album a real sense of identity and continuity. It’s full of girl power defiance, but there are also some moments of real vulnerability in there that showcase the different angles in their song writing. Produced by the legendary Dan Huff and Ross Copperman, it sounds incredibly slick, allowing their vocal quality to shine and also providing them with a string of hits-in-waiting. But what’s most refreshing is the instrumentation; it’s a straight-up ‘country’ album that stays very true to their roots, and that hasn’t been compromised for mainstream impact in the slightest.

‘Head Over Heels’ kicks off the album, which was released during CMA Fest as an instant-grat track and has become an instant fan favourite already. A clever play on words – “these ain’t my ‘you get drunk, call me up and head over’ heels” – the aforementioned ‘girl power’ is in force here! An attitude-filled ‘goodbye’ to that troublesome other half, it’s as catchy as it gets and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of what the album has to offer.

The third song, ‘We Were Rich’, is the album’s biggest eyebrow-raising moment that really stopped me in my tracks. At CMA Fest, Hannah talked about how excited she was for people to hear this one; it’s clearly a very special one for the trio. Written by Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galyon and Ashley Gorley (dream team or what?!), this is the kind of gem that doesn’t come around very often. No exaggeration when I say it’s a clear ‘song of the year’ contender. It’s the epitome of the ‘small town’ mentality of having nothing at all but feeling like you have the world; having a grounded upbringing that teaches you the value of money. It’s absolutely genius writing from 3 of Nashville’s best.

‘I Know The Way’, which the girls wrote with Emily Shackleton and Ben West, is probably a good bet for a future single with its infectious melody. It’s a topic that hasn’t been covered too often either – “I know the way to unbreak your heart” – written from the perspective of a girl who can come to the rescue of a heartbroken guy, rather than the typical ‘break-up’ sob story. It’s so hard to come up with new stories to tell, and this is an alternative angle that works really well for a female vocalist of Naomi’s ability.

One of my clear favourites is the slightly darker ‘Trouble With This Town’, written with Chris DeStefano and Liz Rose. In the aftermath of a break-up, it’s about that experience of a past relationship haunting you wherever you go – “there’s nowhere to hide and there’s nowhere to run…. He’s still out there kicking my heart around”. It’s one of the more off-piste moments on the album that became a go-to right from the first listen.

As the album draws to a close, we have ‘Good, Bad & Ugly’, a more delicate, stripped-back offering, about being with the ideal partner who appreciates everything about you – even the most unattractive aspects! Followed by the simply stunning, acoustic title track ‘Blue Roses’ which is the girls’ most vulnerable moment on the album, it brings the project to a close leaving you wanting so much more. There really is nowhere to hide on a song like ‘Blue Roses’; only the highest quality vocalists can pull off goosebump-inducing harmonies like that.

‘Blue Roses’ is an astonishingly good debut from one of the best emerging acts we’ve seen for many years. With this level of song writing and production, combined with the support of a label that is seemingly enthusiastic and very committed to the growth of their artists, this could be the beginning of a hugely successful career for these 3 immensely talented ladies. Let’s hope there’s a place for them on that C2C main stage next year.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan