A trio of fiddle playing sirens who build a solid bridge between Canadian and American popular roots styles, Belle Starr (Stephanie Cadman, Kendal Carson and Miranda Mulholland) pool their east/west Canadian experience into a powerful EP that’s instantly captivating.
The three vocalist/fiddlers bring years of experience in bands and traditional performance to make an important sounding recording whose brevity captures the soul of the trio – no mean feat.
First, they’ve got unpredictable but stellar choice in cover material and their interpretations act as a take over. Belle Starr own the songs, not through force, rather by getting inside the lyrics and melody. They give truth to the example of playing what you believe in.
On the surface, some of these tracks seem to originate from surprising sources: The Talking Heads, Dolly Parton, Fred Eaglesmith, Jenny Whitely. But it’s an inspired choice of material starting with The Talking Heads penned This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody). This announces the Starr’s silver-toned vocal presence immediately and then moves that several notches upward into chorus gold.
The trio of Cadman, Carson and Mulholland have a big stage sound with unassuming delivery and get some understated intensity going quickly on tracks like Jolene and Summerlea.
The Parton penned Jolene is scarily effective. The Starrs capture the pain in the lyric and bring it out in the daylight, exposing the desperation at the song’s core. The track is treated like a lament (an ancient one) as is their version of Eaglesmith’s Summerlea.
These songs are where the band’s Canadian roots come through strongest – the keening edge of vocal harmony and crying fiddles that mixes East Coast banshee wailing and resigned western folk attitude.
Releases like this are a bolt out of the blue.
–– Vernon-based guitarist Dean Gordon-Smith is The Morning Star’s music reviewer.