Were it released a few years earlier, Hello June’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” would’ve been perfect for the closing credits of the final episode of Dopesick, the gut-wrenching 2021 miniseries on the opioid crisis and its devastating impact on an Appalachian town. Solemn pretty much sums the mood of this version, which forgoes the misty-eyed romanticism of John Denver’s original, supplanting it with spare, spooky instrumentation and a dirge-like pacing that accentuates Sarah Rudy’s wearily affecting vocal delivery.
Born and raised in Bridgeport, W.V., Rudy is intimately familiar with the havoc drugs can wreak on a family. She lost her father to addiction, a crushing void she addresses on “Interstate,” another standout track on Hello June’s second release, Artifacts, due out October 6 on 31 Tigers Records. A confessional singer/songwriter album with the grit, intensity and texture of a full-band rock affair, Artifacts was recorded in Nashville at Bell Tone Recording with producer Roger Alan Nichols (Larkin Poe, Kim Richey).
“We worked pretty hard together on guiding the songs,” says Rudy of her interaction with Nichols, who she later discovered was a native of her West Virginia hometown. “It felt like teamwork.”
As for her dad’s death, it wasn’t something she felt equipped to deal with on Hello June’s self-titled 2018 debut. “We’d already started writing songs for the album when I lost my father, and the recording process happened soon after,” says Rudy. “I wasn’t ready to process that, and the lyrics just dance around things.”
Not so with Artifacts, which derives much of its power from Rudy’s stark imagery and blunt honesty. “I called the album Artifacts because I feel like, as a human, I’m left with things like the memory of my father and knowing my mother loves me,” she says. “That’s all you’re left with: these experiences, these memories of people.”
MAGNET is proud to premiere “Take Me Home, Country Roads” today. Check it out now.