John Cloyd Miller won first place in the 21st annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in the bluegrass category at MerleFest 2013. Miller is a vocalist, guitarist and mandolin player for the Asheville-based band, Red June, a nationally touring acoustic Americana trio that includes his wife, fiddler and vocalist Natalya Weinstein, and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Will Straughan. The winning song, “Cloud of Dust,” appears on Red June’s 2012 release, Beauty Will Come.
“'Cloud of Dust' highlights the frustrations and resolve of a young man during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” John says, “This song tells the story of what happens when we abuse our land.” Red June kicked off 2013 with the release of a music video for the song which features powerful archival footage from the Dust Bowl.
Acclaimed NC traditional musician, Riley Baugus, says, “John's music reminds me of being in the Blue Ridge Mountains, high on a hill all alone and hearing the sound of the mountains coming from all around and filling your soul with the feeling that everything is just right in that place. His voice is strong and pure and harkens back to a time when there was no need for electronic enhancement and tuning adjustments. In short, John is the real thing and is just incredible.
The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest offers songwriters the opportunity to have their original songs heard by a panel of professional songwriters and others from the Nashville music industry. The 2013 winners were chosen from more than 700 entries. Winners in the Bluegrass category included 1st Place - John Cloyd Miller’s "Cloud of Dust" (Asheville, NC); 2nd Place - Todd Grebe’s "Master of My Destiny" (Nashville, Tenn.); and 3rd Place - Aaron Burdett’s "Magpie (Saluda, NC). Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via and Johnny Williams.
"The talent this year was amazing!" says Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, coordinator of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. "They gave an inspirational performance on the Cabin Stage on Friday evening, sharing their talents and enthusiasm with the crowd.” For more details about the contest, visit merlefest.org/ChrisAustinSongwritingContest.
In 2012, Red June made their MerleFest debut, performing at the 25th anniversary festival. Later that year they released their second full-length album, Beauty Will Come, and performed at numerous shows and festivals across the country including Music City Roots, Suwannee Springfest, Beartrap Summer Festival, and Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival. The band was selected for an official showcase at The Station Inn in Nashville at the Americana Music Association conference, and was featured in the October 2012 issue of Southern Living magazine with Douglas Rogers writing, “Bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, and Red June have recently put the sounds of Appalachia back on the map.”
A native of Hickory, NC, Miller’s musical background includes deep roots in bluegrass. A self-taught musician, he grew up listening to his grandfather, legendary bluegrass fiddler and NC Folk Heritage Award winner, Jim Shumate. After graduating from Appalachian State University, Miller moved to Utah and joined the bluegrass band Lo-Fi Breakdown. Eventually the band relocated to Asheville, NC, and continued to perform until early 2009. Around that same time, Miller, Weinstein, and Straughan formed Red June (named after an heirloom apple variety), a group that emphasizes songwriting while combining elements of bluegrass, old-time, country and American roots music.
“Beauty Will Come by Red June just may be the most stunningly gorgeous country album in years. Everything about it: from the exquisite three-part harmonies and acoustic loveliness of the mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass...This is the epitome of Americana...” says Mike Greenblatt with Rant'n'Roll Aquarian Weekly.