Michelle Belanger
Country / rockabilly / blues
Members: band members vary from gig to gig

Greetings friends and music lovers-


     I am back from Galax and getting ready to head to Michigan for my usual fall trip. I am so grateful to have so many opportunities to play music with a lot of really good players. Here is this month's index:


-Mandolins set Guiness book record

-Tour of country guitar pickers

-Upcoming shows

-Happy Trails

-Garden pic


Mandolins set Guiness book record


    One of the many great things that happened at this year's Galax Fiddler's Convention was an attempt to break the Guiness record for most mandolins being played at one time. Tara Linhardt came up with the idea several months ahead and made a facebook invite with a time schedule of Tuesday afternoon at 2pm. Word got spread and by 1 Tuesday the bleachers had started to fill up with people. Mandolin marshals were assigned, one per 50 players, to help keep the unwieldy group playing together. 4 tunes were selected (ahead). The old record was set in Germany with 383 players. When all the mandolins in the entire park were assembled, they were two short, so a call was made to the local music store in downtown Galax, and those folks brought eight more instruments over. There were plenty of pickers to play them. The local news came out to cover the spectacle, and you can read the article about it and see a short video here. This gave many of us one more reason to love Galax. There is a photo album on my facebook music page of swingtown, where I usually camp. Greg Bond engineered a rig that holds a huge silver tarp, and he and some others host a jamming space where swing players can gather throughout the week to enjoy some pickin and listening while being sheltered from the rain and sun. You can also check out my contarption that keeps my van dry and shady. Just click on photos and look for the album Galax 2012, or look down the posts. I just put it up this week.


Tour of country guitar pickers-


   Another cool thing about Galax is the kids and young adults who are really good players that understand the value of listening to and learning from the masters. Listening is about 80% of playing music. You have to listen to yourself while you are playing, listen to the people you are paying with, and spend as much time as you can listening to others while you are not playing, In order to give it your full attention. So, I was delighted one afternoon to see a twenty- something guy with a notebook going around asking people for their recommendations for albums he should get to help him learn to be a better guitar player.  I asked him what styles of music he was interested in and old country was high on his list. So here are a few my suggestions. The only actual album I suggested was Country Soul Guitar by Duke Levine. We first heard Duke's playing on a Peter Wolf recording called Midnight Souvenirs. Here is a song from that recording- a duo with Shelby Lynne called Tragedy. Not particularly country, but great playing. The Country Soul Guitar record is just what the title says. For some older country and rockabilly, I sent him to youtube. Speedy West played what he used to call hillbilly jazz. Here he is playing Speedy Plays The Boogie. Fast and clean. The recording isn't great but the playing is worth the listen. Here is Speedy playing on a recording with pedal steel player Jimmy Bryant on their excellent recording Stratosphere Boogie. Swingin'. Joe Maphis was another legendary guitar player from the early 50's through the 60's. He was the band leader for the old TV show Ranch Party. Here is the ranch Party Band playing the showcase tune, Town Hall Boogie. Note the two hot pickin women in the band- one on fiddle and the other on pedal steel. Joe Maphis was a mentor to Larry Collins of the Collins Kids. Here they are playing together on the tune Hurricane. Buck Owens had a really fine picker and singer in his sideman, Don Rich. Here he is spankin' his sparkle Tele on the classic Act Naturally. Buck's TV show of that era can give hours of youtube entertainment by itself, but just bookmark that one and come back to it. In the meantime, stick with me here. I could really go on and on with this, but I'm gonna give you just one more. I asked this young man if he was familiar with Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives and he got a funny look on his face, like he wasn't sure if they were cool enough for him. I said "I know, Marty looks like he is still in the 80s, but it is definitely worth getting past that because Cousin Kenny freakin Vaughn is someone you gotta hear". Kenny is one of the folks who is bringing that old school feel and sound into the present and his playing is clean and hot whether on acoustic or electric. Here he plays on a song written by Hank Williams and Bill Monroe called I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome. And here he is on the acoustic doing Luther Played the Boogie. Oh yeah. Kenny can also play really well in some different settings. Calvin came across this earlier this week. He noticed a really good lead player was in the band of singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Kim Richey, and on closer inspection, it was Kenny. He does some cool stuff with feedback in this cut. Perfectly clean, just enough, never over played. The song is Those Words We Said. I, personally, can't get enough of good listening. I'll have to pick this back up in another newsletter. 


-Upcoming Shows


    My next show is this week. I'll be joined by Fj Ventre and John Worthington on the Weaver Street Lawn in Carrboro from 6-8. The weather forecast is looking really nice. We had perfect weather last time we played there as well. I hope some of you will join us. You can bring your own picnic or get some food and a glass of wine or a beer there. I always enjoyed hanging out there when I lived in the triangle. I will head off on my usual September trip to Michigan after Labor Day. I am looking forward to playing the Earthwork Harvest Gathering with some of the best Michigan musicians I know. We will be playing a honkytonk dance in the barn on Friday night at 9:30. I hope it is the first of many Michigan gigs. I am looking forward, as well, to our first appearance at Prissy Polly's BBQ in Kernersville on Oct 11th. The regulars there really love that old country sound, and they remember folks like Jim Reeves. Scott Williams and Calvin Johnson will be playing with me there. Then John, Fj and I will be back at the Blue Note on Thursday, Oct 25th.


-Happy trails


   I said my goodbyes to my 96 year old dad last week. He was always a big fan of cowboy movies, especially the ones where the good guy gets the bad guys and then gets the girl. I decided it would be fitting to close his service with everyone singing the old Roy Rogers song Happy Trails. Give it a listen and sing it once for my dad. Until we meet again.


See you soon-Michelle


I made these up for the funeral, instead of buying cut flowers. My mom's favorite flowers include mums, asters and geraniums



The Blue Note Grill Durham, NC Thu Jan 29 2015 06:30 PM  
Green Heron Club Danbury, NC Sat Feb 07 2015 07:00 PM  
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"Michelle, I love to come hear you play because I can pretend I'm you and it makes me feel sassy"  Tami Reichert, Mystery Hillbillies fan quotes

"I think of the word "bad-ass" when I think of you. Confident, talented, cool, humorous, skilled ...bad-ass!"  Anastasia Mattox, Mystery Hillbillies fan quotes

"The Mystery Hillbillies opened the show with a barn burning set of tightly focused, three-piece high-lighted by Michelle Belanger’s lived-in vocals. Hillbillies regular Calvin Johnson on the upright came the closest to Americana, easing the crowd into the evening connecting the mountain pickers to urban hot-rodders in a tactile way. The addition of a drummer and electric guitar brought on the Memphis and allowed their set to bridge that gap from the Carter Family Fold in Virginia to Johnny’s electrified Nashville career. Belanger’s stage presence and singing are warm, like sitting on a porch and listening to her croon over a chorus of crickets."  Chad Nance, Camel City Dispatch

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