Bill & the Belles – (happy again)
This 11-cut CD of original songs was produced by Teddy Thompson (son of guitarist Richard Thompson) with an obvious nod to early 60s pre-Beatle pop songs.
Bill & the Belles – (happy again) (Drops May 21/Dirty Boom Records). PR acknowledges the classic 60s girl groups the Shangri-Las & Ronettes but I don’t hear anything that reminiscent. The songs tread closer to vaudeville-novelty in melody & performance yet cleverly apply female backup singers with the tonal quality of Bobby Rydell’s Cameo-Parkway records.’ Backup solidly on many of his top 10 songs (the classic “Forget Him,” “Sway,” “The Cha-Cha-Cha”).
This CD is for selective nostalgic tastes & the nostalgia here is winning. At times silly, there is nothing hokey. It’s pieced together with a grin, tongue firmly in cheek. Furnished with a pinch of seriousness that comes through with these brightly sung, well-arranged fun songs.
“Happy Again (I’ll Never Be),” has an early 60s beach guitar, Rydell backup vocalists applied stylistically & embellished with a violin solo & barrelhouse upright piano. Nice touch. The lead male vocalist isn’t as strong as Bobby Rydell, but the entire production is delightful.
“Taking Back My Yesterday,” with a slight arrangement tweak could’ve been covered by the late jazz singer Billie Holiday. It’s that good. Sounds like it was written decades ago for small 30s-40s combo musicians. “I got news for you…” is typical Holiday intonation. In “That’ll Be Just Fine,” the singer’s phrasing is superb. The lyric insert credits fail to detail who sings what & there are 3 vocalists.
“The Corn Shuckin’ Song,” is a humorous throwaway that’s well-played. It falls somewhere between the Manhattan Transfer, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Minnie Pearl & Roger Miller territory. All songs despite their limited appeal are well-arranged pieces. Expertly played. The Rydell-inspired backup singers return on “People Gonna Talk,” that reeks of 60s melodic magic. A memorable time when Kal Mann/Dave Appell wrote melodies similar to these confections.
“Blue So Blue,” is a jewel. Country-blues tough, no gimmick-vocal with Patsy Cline crossed with Billie Holiday. By the end, the singer yodels & it reminds me of the late wonderful and engaging spirit of the late 20s & early 30s singer Lee Morse (“If You Want the Rainbow” & her terrific “A Million Me’s” segment where she yodels). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKIlCLNAxeo
On the talking blues “Sobbin’ the Blues,” the singer continues with a Lee Morse aching vocal edge surrounded by a Bob Dylan talkin’ blues. That’s creative. Kris Truelsen (guitars/vocals) stated honestly & I respect this, that they want to “write songs that are hard to classify in a certain time period. To transcend the now.” However, their songs tip back to Lee Morse without a doubt. This group should explore Ms. Morse, polish the genre.
With Kris, the group is: Kalia Yeagle (guitar/fiddle/vocals), Andrew Small (bass), Helena Hunt (banjo/banjo-uke/vocals), Nick Faulk (drums/percussion), & Don Eanes (piano/Hammond B3).
The 33-minute CD is available @ Bandcamp & https://billandthebelles.com/