BY TOM SPEED
There’s a long-standing and deep seated musical heritage in and around Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Lately, that heritage is getting revitalized thanks to the consistently stellar songwriting of Jason Isbell and the meteoric rise of the Alabama Shakes. You can now add Belle Adair to the mix.
On their debut full-length, The Brave And The Blue, they take a page (or ten) from the Wilco playbook in creating a dreamy brand of Americana that’s bathed in a fuzzy, atmospheric sonic wash but still rooted in wood and wire.
They score immediately with “Be Brave,” a slowly unfolding, ambient, sonic landscape that serves as the intro to a triptych of opening songs. The three-song suite flows seamlessly as the soft and plaintive “Sister” leisurely ripens for a full two minutes until electric guitars chime in supporting the piano and acoustic guitar, building to a crescendo that flirts with the edge of cacophony until lulling back into the atmospheric soundscape then marching into “Slowest Routine,” with it’s weird vocal effects and psychedelic pop tendencies layered on a thrumming rhythm. It’s the most cohesive part of the album, because from there, they jump around a bit.
They weave their way through warm melancholia swathed in pedal steel and wailing fiddles, then get all jangly with “Golden Days.” They tilt towards dream-pop with “Comes A Time.” Elsewhere, horns punctuate the mostly melancholia moods like a Muscle Shoals cousin of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The stylistic shifts seem slight until you realize how much ground they cover and how they wrap it up nicely in an ambient package. Belle Adair isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but they are adding a new chapter to an already longstanding legacy.
DOWNLOAD: “Golden Days,” “Easy Way Out”