When I picked this up I realised I’d been away from Country for quite a while. Too long as it turns out. I needed a kick of something different. I’ve got the same levels of lyrical heartbreak and heartache, less queer and feminist protest. But I’ve traded noise, rage, hush, understatement, for harmonies and hooks (these are of course features of queer and feminist music, just not the stuff i’ve been listening to).
‘Backstory’ follows last year’s ‘When I Think About Christmas’ EP and the third single release (‘We Were Rich’) from their 2019 studio album ‘Blue Roses’. Setting aside the seasonal release, ‘Backstory’ follows smoothly on from where ‘Blue Roses’ left off, despite the replacement of Hannah Mulholland by Natalie Stovall in mid-2020.
There’s everything I needed and wanted in here. The EP opens with the clean, bluegrass-infused stomp of ‘Forgot About That’. A stripped-down, fresh breeze of a verse before the crashing flashbulb-bright chorus. “Has anybody heart of heartbreak amnesia ?” It’s a pop corker.
Second song ‘Down the Middle’ is the kind of dreamy lovelorn ballad that Nashville can turn out in its sleep (but without it being a phoned-in performance). It’s the tale of the messiness of break-ups (“hearts don’t break down the middle”) told with exquisite harmonies, lamenting steel guitar, and taut songwriting. “No matter how hard you try, you can’t tear a picture in a straight line”.
EP closer ‘T-Shirt’ is a good-time tune with a cynical grin. It’s the poppiest of the three tracks with only the voices really giving a nod to the roots of this band and their music. That said, if you’ve spent any time with Country music then you’ll recognise the heavy dose of rue in the lyrics – the ability to smile at the misfortune, to turn the heartache into a good story and a joke – and the homespun matter-of-factness about being unlucky in love. “100% ain’t goin’ there again, 4 out of 10 I highly wouldn’t recommend”.
‘Backstory’ is out 20 August and, if you’re in the States, you can catch Runaway June supporting Luke Bryan on his ‘Proud to be right here’ tour, running August to October.