42 Haggerty Hill Road, Rhinebeck, NY
$15/Members – $20/Non-Members
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MEET BILL AND THE BELLES
Bill and the Belles have captured the freewheeling, lighthearted approach to music that has endeared them to listeners of every generation. With a spirited sound that falls somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville, the group puts its own spin on a golden era of music, specifically the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
“We like old music and some of us are consumed by it,” says lead singer and guitarist Kris Truelsen with a knowing laugh. “But we don’t have a desire to copy it. We want to sound like ourselves and tell our story.”
The band takes its name from Bill and Belle Reed, performers from the 1920s who recorded the songs “Old Lady and the Devil” and “You Shall Be Free” in Johnson City, Tennessee. Truelsen says, “That was the first time I heard ‘Old Lady and the Devil,’ and since then it’s become clear to me why it’s stood the test of time. Simple, plaintive, stripped-down but incredibly expressive, tough as nails and funny as hell. I first heard that side on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, a collection that continues to inspire. Our band’s name is a way to honor their music, the music of this place, and this region in general that we’ve come to call home. “
Prior to forming Bill and the Belles, Truelsen sang in a honky-tonk band with Kalia Yeagle, an Alaska-grown fiddler and singer and graduate of the Hudson Valley’s Vassar College. Feeling stifled by straight-ahead traditional country, they started working up a few songs with friend and banjo player Grace Van’t Hof. As he recalls, “We quickly discovered our mutual love for rich vocal harmonies and simple catchy melodies. We picked out a few songs we’d been throwing around in various settings that were from the early commercial recording era and it clicked.”
With the addition of bass player Karl Zerfas, Bill and the Belles stepped into the role of house band upon the launch of a live radio show, Farm and Fun Time, presented by Radio Bristol. Truelsen launched that community radio station, housed within the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Tennessee, in 2015. Along with sharing the stage with the nation’s top roots artists (Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives and Earls of Leicester), the band writes and performs the snappy, comical jingles for the show’s monthly sponsors.