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

Greetings friends and music lovers-- 
    Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had some great food and company to celebrate. I know I am feeling pretty blessed by family and friends and the fact that we really know how to have fun. Here's this month's index.

-Americana Music Awards
-Thank you and upcoming shows
-Garden pic

Americana Music Awards-

     I saw a post on face book recently with a link to a song called The Weight. This song has been played a lot this year because it is so much associated with the great drummer, Levon Helm, who died of cancer earlier this year. As many of you know, Levon played and sang with a group called The Band, who's rootsy sound was a great influence on many musicians over the last few decades. You may recognise the song from it's chorus "Take a load off Annie, take a load for free". The posted version was performed by several winners of this year's Americana Music Awards, including Bonnie Raitt, John Hyatt, Booker T Jones, Emmy Lou Harris, and Richard Thompson. They were joined by the house band including  Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Larry Campbell, and Levon's daughter Amy. Turns out, there was a show made from a selection of songs at the awards ceremony which aired on the PBS program Austin City Limits. The following are some of my favorites from the evening.

     The show began with Booker T Jones playing his classic tune Green Onions. When I was a kid we had that song on a record by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. It would be many years later before I heard the man himeself play that tune (although it was probably on the radio). Booker T (keyboards), along with guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn- who passed away earlier this year- made up the house band for the Stax recording studio in Memphis starting in the early sixties. They were the backbone of recordings by Otis Redding, Winson Pickett, Carla Thomas and Sam and Dave, and, like The Band, they continue to influence many who came along after them. Booker T was given the instrumentalist lifetime achievment award. Well deserved. It was cool to hear folks like Buddy Miller and Richard Thompson play along on Green Onions. Bonnie Raitt was given a lifetime achievment award as well. She did a great duet with another of my favorites, songwriter/singer/player and showman- John Hiatt on John's song Thing Called Love. I used to sing this in my blues/ rock band the Revelators.

     Then came the younger generation. There was Jason Isabell, who apparently used to play with Drive By Truckers. He has a great ability to write songs that sound classic but with a little twist. Here he is with Cigarettes and Wine. The emerging artist of the year was a group called Alabama Shakes. Their singer, Brittany Howard, was excellent. The girl can sing. I was glad they let her have a verse of The Weight.

    Calvin was asking me recently if I knew of any classic country sounding sounding songs with lyrics about modern day issues. His question was answered by this tune from Carl Hayes.  He is joined by Cary Ann Hearst in a very clever duet called Another Like You. I highly recommend you open a separate page with the lyrics so that you can read along while you listen to the song. This performance includes a great extended intro from Carl, where he laments the way so many people are all to willing to write each other off just because the other person has a different political view. It's good to remember that even those people who voted for THAT OTHER GUY are still in fact people. Here is an opportunity to lighten up. Also, by the way, www.cowboylyrics.com is a great place to find the lyrics to an incredible number of old and classic country songs. Some of them are innacurate, of course, but nevertheless, It's a great resource. Don't count on the chords being correct either, although some of them are.

Thank you and upcoming shows-

     As we all spend time at this time of year thinking about all the things we are grateful for, I would like to speak for myself. I have too many blessings to list, but I do want to say that I am especially grateful for a couple things. One is the amazing bunch of musicians who are currently making the time to learn the songs I love to sing and play and show up at gigs with me to play in my band. Scott Williams, Calvin Johnson, John Worthington, Fj Ventre- it's an honor and a pleasure to have you. My Michigan pickers- Drew "Captain Midnight" Howard and Frank Youngman; thanks to you for making it possible to start playing gigs in my old home state.(honorable mention to Seth for giving us a gig) And to all those who have helped and encouraged me along the way, including Buddy Ro and Memphis, Roy Brown and Bob Sykes, The Hitone boys, Mel Jones and Donnie Story, Lj Errante, and so many more. All the hard work and woodshedding isn't worth a dang if you don't have folks to play and sing the songs with. And then, of course, there are my Galax pickin' buddies and the old time music community. They have been with me since I was seriously green, and I wouldn't be near as good today without 'em.

     Another thing that is so essential to my ability to do this playing and singing that I love so much is, of course, all the great people who love my music enought to come out and dance and enjoy what I am able to bring. Those who listen online and share my music with your friends and family. And the folks who manage the clubs, restaurants, festivals, swing dances and events that hire us and provide a place to gather and dance and play. Thank you all so very much. I really appreciate you!

     My next gig is at J Butler's in Lewisville on Saturday, Dec 22nd. I will have Scott Williams on guitar and this will be my first show with Roger Kohrs on upright. Roger spent several years on the road, including a couple with Unknown Hinson. He came off the road to raise his new son, and has been playing with a bunch of great bands in the area. He will be able to fill in for Calvin, who keeps busy with all his other bands. I am hoping that he will help make it possible for me to play that much more. We have some fun tunes in store, so I hope some of you will make time for us in the thick of your christmas season.

     I will be back at the Blue Note Grill in Durham with John Worthington and Fj Ventre on Thursday, Jan 31st. We start at 7, so it's OK to come out on a school night. They have great food and it's afordable. Full bar, too. The crowd is always fun here. We wrap around 9-9:30(ish), depending on how long folks want to stick around and dance. Come out and shake a leg.

I wish you all the very best of the holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you down the road.
Geraniums with Merigold and a little bit of Lantana. Tonight's 27 degree forcast should be the end of these.


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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