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

Greetings friends and music lovers-

      Hope you're having a wonderful holiday season. I have had a bunch of fun seeing some great shows, playing some myself, and cruising youtube for today's christmas music tour below. Happy holidays to all of you. I hope you have much to celebrate. Here's this month's index-

The Gift of Music in the Movies-

Christmas Surf and Twang-

My Turn To Play-

Garden Pic-

The Gift of Music in the Movies-

     I have seen some fun music themed movies lately that would make for some great holiday fun. Some of these are available to buy, I'm sure, but you could also make a date with netflix and one or several good friends. How about a nice card inviting folks to your house (or inviting yourself to someone's house who has a subscription)? Provide or pot-luck some awesome snacks and favorite beverages, and watch a movie together. This type of an invite could stretch the holiday season into January (or beyond) and provide some quality time with loved ones after the hectic time has passed. Here is a list of cool music movies that I recommend, with links to their trailers. 

     Calvin and I recently saw a movie written and produced by Tom Hanks called That Thing You Do. It's about a band that goes from winning the high school talent competition to becoming rock stars in a very short time. The music is excellent, and the actors themselves actually took up their instruments for the movie. They got pretty good and the settings and story are an excellent representation of the early sixties when the story takes place. Lots of well thought out details and great character development. Here is the scene when the band first hears their song on the radio, and they all congregate at the appliance store where the drummer works for his dad. It is absolutely jubilant. The whole movie has this much charm, fun and great music.

     When I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan last September, My friend Judi took me to see a movie that she absolutely loved. A true story called Searching For Sugar Man, is about a Detroit musician called Rodriguez, who made a record in the early 70's. His songs, singing and playing were great, but for whatever collection of reasons, it didn't sell well in the US. Rodriguez went back to doing general labor type work and set aside his ambition to be a singer. Meanwhile, a bootleg version of his record ended up playing a central role in the apartheid movement amongst young white South Africans who embraced it as the soundtrack of their ambitions for freedom. Despite rumors that Rodriguez had committed suicide, two South African fans were able to track him down and bring him to their country to play for tens of thousands in packed houses. I am getting choked up just writing about this because it is so powerfully portrayed. This guy had great songs and was a good singer as well, but he was and remained incredibly humble, giving most of the money he made from the concerts to family and friends. If you would like to feel a real connection with the best in humanity, this movie will take you there. Believe me, it is definitely worth seeing.

      Another movie centered around music is Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges. This one is both sweet and a bit melancholy. The music and the acting are great, and the story is good and pretty true to life even though it is fictional. Jeff plays a country singer who battles the demons of alcohol and the wear of life on the road. It has many charming moments and a hopeful ending. I enjoyed it. Jeff put a band together and made an album of the songs. I saw them on the Colbert Report last year. Fun interview and good music.

Christmas Surf and Twang-

      This month I am taking you on a youtube tour of some rocking christmas music. I found a lot of cool stuff while I was looking for something seasonal for this newsletter, and I will be posting some of the other songs on my fb music page this week, so check there for some Ray Charles, Louie Armstrong, and other fun. Here are a few selections to get you into the twangy christmas spirit. Let's start with a classic Elvis tune- Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me (forgive the tacky slide show). This next one popped up in the youtube suggestions after a bunch of looking. Del Reeves Twistin Santa Clause That's a slippery surfin groove for ya. Love it. That led Calvin to recommend this one from Buck Owens- Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy (and Daddy Looked a Lot Like Him). I found some more recent stuff including this excellent number from one of my favorite country bands in the 90s- BR549. You may recognize their name as the phone number for Junior Samples Used Car Dealer on Hee Haw. These guys really inspired me when they were playing regularly. I saw them at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC. Here they are playing Daddy's Drinkin' Up Our Christmas with the great Marty Stuart sittin' in on a mando-telecaster. I found Ruthie and the Wranglers on Myspace (haha remember that?) years ago, and then kinda forgot about them. I was about to think I had enough links to work with, when on a whim, I decided to try listening to one more. I was intrigued by the name- It'll Be a Rockin' Christmas This Year. Low and behold, it turned out to be a great tune. I need to dig up more from Ruthie. Wonder what she's doing these days.

     Speaking of great country twang from some more recent bands, I'd like to give a shout out to my friends The Sweetback Sisters, who have a new Christmas record out this year. I first heard about them from an old time musician friend. When they played for the Fiddle and Bow Music society in Winston a few years back, they ended up needing a bass player at the last minute, since their guy had accidently double booked himself. Another friend sent them to Calvin, and they spent that afternoon at our house running all the tunes for the show, which he aced. They are fronted by two excellent singers who can, among other things, nail some Davis Sisters harmony. I realized I had heard them before when they got third place in the Talented Twenty Somethings competition on A Prairie Home Companion (PRI). They have since travelled the world and have become a super excellent band. Check out their website www.thesweetbacksisters.com where you'll find a great video with their rendition of Santa Clause Is Coming To Town. They have been doing shows for the last three years that they call their Country Christmas Singalong Extravaganza, and now they have a CD of the same name. I highly recommend it.

My Turn To Play-

      As I said earlier, I've had the opportunity to hear some great music lately, and to participate in some as well. I went down to Charlotte with a bunch of friends for a solo show from Keb Mo. If you haven't had the chance to see or hear him, you've been missin' out. Excellent songs, singing and playing. I have also gone out to see my friends Tin Can Alley, who play old school r&b and soul music regularly around the triad area. It is always fun to sit in and sing some of that kind of material. Keep your eye out for them. Calvin plays bass, they all three sing, and the drum kit includes a galvanized trash can. Calvin and I played a little show this past week for some kids who come from troubled home situations and end up residing at the Children's Home in Winston Salem. My friend Liza teaches art classes there and pulled together a nice little christmas event for them. It was probably the first time they ever heard live music. Actually, it was the second time for some of them. Cal and I played there last year as well. It was really fun and much appreciated. 

      I will be playing a Mystery Hillbillies trio show this Saturday at J Butler's in Lewisville. Scott Williams will be playing guitar and I will have Roger Kohrs on bass. Our rehearsal was really fun and I am looking forward to pulling out a couple of my favorite christmas songs. Roger has a baby boy named Rock, and at one of our rehearsals he had woken up from his nap and was hanging out in the playpen next to us. He was about to start fussing when I cranked up the guitar intro to the Wanda Jackson tune Let's Have a Party. He grabbed the side of the play pen and just danced through the whole thing. It was soooo freakin cute. I hope some of you will come out and dance to some rockabilly this Saturday. It's gonna be fun. We play working people's hours- 8-11. So finish up your day of shopping and come have some dinner and your favorite beverage.

     I will be back at the Blue Note Grill on Thursday Jan 31st with Fj Ventre and John Worthington. That is an early show, as well. We kick off at 7. We also just booked a wedding in Feburary for some of our old Fisher's Grill fans. If you are looking for a different kind of band for your wedding or party, keep us in mind. 

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the year and that 2013 brings even more fun. Thanks, as always, for supporting live music.   Michelle


White Queen Caladium





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  
The Garage Winston-Salem, NC Fri Feb 27 2015 07:00 PM  
> See More / Details


"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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