Whether you like the Alabama Shakes or not, their rise has given the world a reminder of the rich musical heritage of Muscle Shoals, AL and helped promote the newly thriving music scene of North Alabama, thanks in no small part to keyboardist Ben Tanner. Tanner has his fingers in virtually every Shoals area pie at the moment, producing, recording, promoting, and even playing with countless local artists. His resume features an eclectic mix of styles, from the country leaning Doc Dailey to the more indie oriented Belle Adair, who’s eponymous debut EP Tanner produced.
Named after the sunken ship from John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent, Belle Adair manages to walk the fine line between needlessly precious and overly earnest that such references would suggest. In fact, second track No Reply is so resolutely “North Alabama front porch” that I’m inclined to root for their success based on that 3:34 alone, but its a stranger among the more indie leaning offerings that form the basis of the Belle Adair sound, namely thoughtful meditations over sparse arrangements delivered with a refreshingly breezy delivery that belies the thoughtful subject matter. To put it another way, at it’s worst it’s a knowing nod and wink at Holopaw while at it’s best it’s Wilco without the insufferable Tweediness.
With the upcoming release of The Brave and The Blue (8.27.13), Belle Adair previewed the track Losing My Train for Paste Magazine. The focus on richer instrumentation points to a continual growth in style without sacrificing the hallmark breezy vocals and harmonies that made their debut so easy to latch on to. The Brave and The Blue is reportedly rife with emotional weight stemming from a particularly tumultuous period of frontman Matt Green’s life. Losing my Train’s refrain “Now I’m rolling down the line, trying to find, anything to ease my mind” certainly speaks to that particularly gnawing need to just keep moving in times of trouble while its catchy delivery suggests that thin, unconvincing smile we’ve all plastered on from time to time. It’s a promising tidbit from what is hopefully a more thematically cohesive proper debut for Belle Adair.