Offering a bewitching blend of sparse folk, deep pop and cosmic country, Junior formed in 2019 as a touring and traveling project by three beloved veterans of the Missoula music scene. Multi-instrumentalists Caroline Keys and Hermina Jean join violinist Jenny Lynn; all three share vocals, with Jean and Keys shouldering most of songwriting load. The band is named for a 12-year-old basset hound, “who’s kind of stinky.”
When Junior last made the headlines, the trio had collaborated with renowned Memphis photographer Jamie Harmon – and their own network of far-flung friends – on a video that captured the zeitgeist of the early pandemic days in near real-time (watch the “Goddamnit” video here).
That track was intended to be a single in advance of the 2020 release of their first album. The ongoing shutdown quashed tour plans to fund the album’s completion, so the band pivoted to catch the prevailing winds. They offered pre-sales of Warm Buildings to their newly expanded fan base, and raised enough cash to finish the album.
“It’s a year later than we had planned,” says Keys, “but given everything that’s happened, we feel pretty fortunate to have found this path to releasing the record.”
Warm Buildings is a mix of songs that Jean and Keys brought to the group plus some new, original numbers. Regardless of origin, the eight songs sound like wholly owned properties of the collective. “Think: The Roches, with a sweetgrass twist,” writes Krys Holmes of The Myrna Loy in Helena.
Highlights include “Midnight Summer,” a Keys-penned tune that describes an exit from the famed Missoula bar, Charlie’s: “Someone should take her keys, she’ll probably hit a cow, they’re all black anyhow.” The nostalgic late-night journey offers a long, loping bass line, and melt-your-heart pedal steel from recent Montana transplant Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Pretenders, Ray Lamontagne).
“Goddamnit,” powered by Jean’s searching, plaintive voice, is haunted by the interplay between Lynn’s violin and sideman Luke Ydstie’s (Blind Pilot) bowed bass. The rapier wit of Lynn’s “Quiet,” with lines like “We’re not talking/You’re monologuing,” are almost criminally diluted by her soaring vocals.
Basic tracks of Warm Buildings were recorded in January 2020, and engineered by Kati Claborn (Blind Pilot, The Hackles) at The Rope Room studio in Astoria, OR. The album was mixed by Adam Selzer and mastered by Jon Neufeld.