Since the release of their striking debut hit “Lipstick” in 2016, Runaway June, the trio of Jennifer Wayne, Naomi Cooke and Hannah Mulholland, has consistently used confidence and empowerment as the driving forces behind their music. This fact remains unchanged on the long awaited debut album Blue Roses where facets integral to female empowerment – strength, independence, honesty and vulnerability – are steeped into the album’s 10 tracks.
They place empowerment and resilience at the core of the opening number, “Head Over Heels,” which finds a woman owning up to her weak moments falling back into the arms of someone who doesn’t deserve her, yet simultaneously taking a stand and refusing to repeat that same mistake. Independence is written all over “Buy My Own Drinks” as the group confidently takes on the persona of a modern woman who wholly enjoys her own company after a breakup, making one feel truly emboldened as they proclaim, “I can be my own boyfriend.”
As effectively as they own independence, they embrace emotion, particularly in “Got Me Where I Want You.” Originally featured on their 2018 self-titled EP, the trio’s harmonies capture the sheer pain of a woman who bravely admits she’s not as strong as she should be, placing the power in someone else’s hands. Whether comparing a lover to a storm one can’t help but chase or a kiss that feels like drowning in whiskey, the listener observes as this character lets her guard down while the trio poignantly sings in unison, “you only want me when you got me where you want me, where I can’t say no to that look in your eyes, you only want me when you got me where you want me, and you got me where I want you tonight.”
What’s intriguing about Blues Roses is the way vulnerability takes on different forms, like when it shines through in a more heartfelt way on the bluesy “Good, Bad & Ugly” where someone who is “just about as flawed as they get” expresses thankfulness to the person who accepts them in all seasons of life whether a self-professed “saint,” “sinner” or “trainwreck.” On “I Am Too,” we witness a woman turning the tough questions on herself in the event of a failed relationship, wondering how she contributed to the demise, as the trio confesses with their stellar harmonies, “are you blaming me for everything I did and I didn’t do, I am too.” In between the more pensive numbers, they celebrate the simplicity of days past in “We Were Rich,” reflecting on how life’s richest moments were as pure as sharing a bathroom sink in a humble family home or lighting a fire and staring at the stars.
The trio couldn’t end the project more powerfully than they do with “Blue Roses.” A stirring ballad that has become both a personal and fan favorite, the title track is the group’s strongest example of how they carved a place for themselves in country music through hard work and compelling songwriting. With not a word wasted, the vivid lyrics penned by Wayne, Cooke, Caroline Cutbirth and Marcus Hummon convey a heartache so deep that it transforms a bird’s song into the “lonesomest sound” and turns wild roses blue. Their haunting harmonies carry the weight of the potent words that will echo in one’s head even after the final harmonious note, a testament not only to the group’s impressive debut project, but what defines them as artists.