June Star, formed in 1998 by Andrew Grimm, is an Americana, roots-rock band. Literate and accessible, Grimm’s songs meditate on subjects from falling in or out of love, being all right no matter what, to playing in the local music scene. These are stories that need to be told, need to be heard. The voice in these songs speaks loneliness and redemption, jump starts and slow fades, both separation and discovery. However, sonic epiphanies travel only as far as the music will allow. Singing electric guitars and slippery pedal steel frame the lyrics with vibrancy as Grimm’s distinctive nasal baritone allows the lyrics to unfold, a thinking man’s country music.
To date, June Star has seven releases to its catalog. June Star (1998), Songs From and Engineer’s Daughter (2000), Telegraph (2001), Sugarbird (2004), Cora Belle (2008), and Shift, Engage, and Initiate (2009). 2010 Marked a shift with the band recording Lower Your Arms with producer Jason Rubal. The effect was clear, tight sounding album. In 2011 the band went back into studio, this time, self engineering, producing, and mixing the 12 songs on Slow Dance. With each release the band mines deeper sounds, combining old Appalachian melodies and electric energies bringing an updated rock and roll sound to the surface in each performance.
The personnel of the band seems to turn around to the extent that the audience is never sure who will show up to play, including the band. At any given moment, June Star could be: Andrew Grimm (songs, vocals, guitars), Timothy Bracken (bass, vocals), Mike Ward (keyboards), Dave Hadley (pedal steel), and most recently, Mark Tuminello (Bass)
Andrew Grimm - Guitars and Vocals
David Hadley - Pedal Steel
Timothy Bracken - Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocal, and Drums.
Michael Ward - Keyboards.
Mark Tuminello - Bass
1999 June Star
2000 Songs from an Engineer's Daughter
2008 Cora Belle
2009 Shift, Engage, and Initiate
2010 Lower Your Arms
2012 Slow Dance
Know Your Product: Country Veteran
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June Star Lower Your Arms Dangerously Delicious “Ain’t much to do, but sit around and watch the...June Star
Lower Your Arms
“Ain’t much to do, but sit around and watch the wolves watchin’ you,” sings June Star frontman Andrew Grimm in the sort of scraped-out Western twang that would never be mistaken for being from Baltimore or, for that matter, anywhere this side of coal country Appalachia. June Star is a country band—not “alt-” anything, or “new-” anything, just the straight-up country of open space and creeping loneliness. Which makes it one of the more novel bands in Baltimore, just by default. And after 12 years and six albums, June Star has gotten very good at its craft, delivering 13 well-rounded and simple songs—all reworkings of older Grimm solo material—of lovely singing slide-guitar-haloed music for whiskey and watching trails roll by.
That said, Lower Your Arms isn’t the most immediate record, which is entirely due to how it sticks to those bare country bones. It can deliver a big, satisfying chorus—as on the opener, “Breakdown,” which dares a “na na na na” refrain and lets out with a warm and welcoming pedal steel solo that has the natural smoothness of a riverbed stone. The real allure, however, is the slowly loping, melancholic spaces between big peaks like that, when Grimm’s sometimes overbearing vocals are dialed down some and that steel or maybe a plinking blue piano melody hit a bit of gloom on a later track, like “You forgot about love/ you were picking flowers just to watch them die” as if a morning fog hits a cold, gray body of water. To put it all really bluntly: This is country without much if any indie-anything thrown in. It takes a while to sink into June Star’s sonic world, but listeners will be richly rewarded.-Michael Byrne
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In its 12 years of haunting clubs up and down the East Coast, Baltimore's June Star has had at least...In its 12 years of haunting clubs up and down the East Coast, Baltimore's June Star has had at least a baker's dozen different lineups. But the one constant is determined singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Andrew Grimm. A trusty brand of roots rock, his music has never sought to break ground as much as it celebrates hallowed ground. Grimm is comfortable walking where the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young (and that pair's godson, Jay Farrar) have hiked while still, across six accomplished releases, staking out just a bit of seaboard turf that's all his own.-Rick Cornell
Shift, Engage, and Initiate Review
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First impression on hearing the music of June Star was, Sun Volt and Jay Farrar — now that can’t be ...First impression on hearing the music of June Star was, Sun Volt and Jay Farrar — now that can’t be bad, and you are right it isn’t
June Star possess a core band that feature guitars, keys, bass, drums and guest pedal steel on ‘Staring The End Down’ that possesses Mark Olsen-esque tendencies, and is one of two songs to figure on the five-piece band’s forthcoming double album, 'Love, Honor, And Negotiate'. Opening track, ‘Drive All Night’ is the other and it too is a superb affair.
Why put out an eight-track prior to a double album you might ask? Simple, June Star after taking four years over their previous record, 'Cora Belle', realise they needed something to keep themselves in the picture. Multi-instrumentalist Timothy Bracken and the bandleader of 10 years, Andrew Grimm share the lead vocals and songwriting duties. Based in Baltimore, the leading members playing four of the band’s older songs are captured live at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia. Stripped bare and playing a neat little all-acoustic set a great warmth wafts from the speakers throughout.
Bracken who had previously figured only as a musician, shows him self to be a solid and innovative singer-songwriter. His singing of an emotion-filled ‘This Love Won’t Let Me Go’ and the likewise, angst-torn ‘In The Back Of My Mind’ underline the wisdom of Grimm to call on him to both write and sing more. Elder statesman, Grimm provides a couple of solid vocal presentations via the lazy paced ‘Highway’ and ‘This Love Won’t Let Me Go’ as he adds a little edge to the proceedings —now for the double album! Bring it on, boys.
Cora Belle Review
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This one didn't make the cut last issue, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Maybe it's t...This one didn't make the cut last issue, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Maybe it's that I've been listening to more Uncle Tupelo lately...lead singer and songwriter Andrew Grimm is an aural doppelganger for Jay Farrar.
But these aren't Uncle Tupelo (or Son Volt) songs. They're Andrew Grimm songs, and played by June Star. Timothy Bracken is the other half of the duo, and he does a lot of the playing and all the producing. The two guys make one hell of a team.
It's hard to make rolling roots music with just two people. Takes skill, devotion and a little luck. June Star has all that. These songs sound like they're being played live to tape, with just enough knob-twisting to bring out the sweet spots. Most solid.
I'm still stumped as to why I didn't dig this as much the first time around. Maybe because it is right up my alley. I just don't trust something that stabs me in the heart and twists the knife. Oh well. If I listen to a good album enough times, eventually I'll figure it out. I'm thinking it won't take quite so long for most other people.
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Andrew Grimm is the star of June Star, in that he wrote the music and lyrics, produced and helped mi...Andrew Grimm is the star of June Star, in that he wrote the music and lyrics, produced and helped mix the album, sings lead and plays electric/acoustic/bass guitars, mandolin and banjo. While Grimm may seem to have superhuman abilities, he does admit being accompanied by "satellite affiliates" Chris Plummer, John Tenney, Jay Filippone and Tom Scanlan.
There are plenty of great things about Sugarbird. All of the songs, even the "OK" ones, are very accessible and affable. One reason for this could be the common themes of all the songs -- love and loss -- to which anyone can relate. In my opinion, the highlight of the album is "Baltimore," a great narrative of promises, failure and optimism.
Another reason for June Star's accessibility is Grimm's vocals. While the instruments, background vocals and lyrics could be all across the board, it won't matter because Grimm's vocal style (a monotone baritone -- monobaritone?) actually acts as a conduit/cohesive device for all the elements.
It's not all about Grimm's vocals, though. Check out the surprisingly energetic instrumental "My Sweetheart." It's a little over two minutes -- a bit short for such an interesting tune. But, like any good performance, you're left wanting more.
The downside to this album is, well, it has a down side. There are some songs like "Acetone," "Mexico" and "Home" that take such a slow and somber pace (in tempo as well as in the lyrics) that they border on depressing. However, that's not to say that slow=bad; check out "Way Down" for a solid well-crafted song that keeps it slow. But, as I mentioned before, even the "OK" songs are of a sufficient quality to keep your interest in the overall album.
If you are looking for an album that instantly piques your interest and retains it, I recommend Sugarbird by June Star.
All Music Guide
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Perhaps June Star frontman Andrew Grimm should get together with Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine ...Perhaps June Star frontman Andrew Grimm should get together with Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine and form a support group called "Alt-Country Singer/Songwriters Who Sound a Lot Like Jay Farrar Without Really Trying." Like Vlautin, Grimm's curse (if that's the right word) is that his voice bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the former leader of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, which is compounded by the fact that the slow, thoughtful drift of many of the songs on June Star's third album, Sugarbird, gives them a sound and feel not unlike much of the best material on Trace. But like Richmond Fontaine's work, if you look past the surfaces on Sugarbird, it becomes clear that Andrew Grimm is a songwriter with a style very much his own. Significantly more direct and less oblique than Farrar, Grimm's lyrics deal with the nuances of life along the margins in his hometown of Baltimore, from playing a gig when even your own dad heckles you ("Baltimore") to the desperate need to blow town before love and geography can crush you (Mexico"). Grimm's stories are smart, concise, and effective, and his guitar (coupled with multi-instrumentalist Tim Bracken, who is the only other player on most of these tunes) conveys both the space and the isolation of the big, decaying city with surprising skill. Sugarbird is a strong and compelling album from a band that certainly deserves a higher profile on the current alt-country scene, and hopefully work of this caliber will not be overlooked.
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The first song that stands out on "Sugarbird," the new CD by the alt-country group June Star, is "Ba...The first song that stands out on "Sugarbird," the new CD by the alt-country group June Star, is "Baltimore," a working band's blues. Lead vocalist and songwriter Andrew Grimm gets the tone just right, delivering the lyrics with a mixture of despair and determination: "Nobody came, but my band still played / We just closed our eyes and made believe . . . we got two channels of 700 watts / We're gonna give it all we got, tonight."
Sparsely arranged and often emotionally bleak, "Sugarbird" isn't exactly bursting with songs that are likely to draw a big crowd -- in Baltimore, the band's home base, or anywhere else. But Grimm and his compatriots have nevertheless carved out an interesting niche for themselves, a little left of the alt-country center and not far from the kind of thinking man's folk associated with the late Townes Van Zandt. Granted, Grimm's warble takes some getting used to; there are times when he doesn't sing so much as drone. But it's the sort of voice that eventually gets under your skin if you listen long enough, and that's even more true of the best songs on "Sugarbird," including the haunting, Van Zandt-like ballad "Home" and the wry, rhythmically loping lament "Belly."
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