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Red Sky JulyRed Sky July
Album: The Truth And The Lie
Label: Shadowbirds
Tracks: 10

Unselfconsciously commercial country-flavoured mainstream pop rock from the well connected three-piece for which greater things surely beckon. They've opened for the likes of Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow and traces of both can be heard in this follow up to their second album, the award-winning Shadowbirds and its predecessor their almost universally praised self-titled debut, an alt-country gem.

The key to all this pleasantness is in the close harmonies of husband and wife Ally (Texas guitarist) McErlaine and Shelly (half of Alisha's Attic) Poole and Charity (Alice Band singer) Hair. The vocals are powerful yet understated and hang on to some equally powerful hooks driven to the fore by sympathetic production.

Beth Nielsen Chapman makes a telling contribution to the ocean-spanning charms of Strathconon, but the album's heart probably lies in more obvious fare such as the chippy opening track, Jet Trails, with its melodic and structural echoes of prime mid-70s Fleetwood Mac.

Elsewhere there's In Black, a sombre and arresting account of McErlaine's struggle with a brain aneurism written by his wife that sits in neat counterpoint to the album closer Sway, a great big self-assured grin of a track.

The Truth and the Lie sounds like a breakthrough, a defining moment as a musical collaboration takes root and starts to define itself on its own terms rather than on the collective CV of its participants.

Nick Churchill