The Belle Jar started as an individual project of lead singer and songwriter Ryan James, but has since grown into a six-piece lineup that adds rich vocal harmonies and diverse instrumentation to James’ melodic, and expressive songwriting. Though the songs cover a range of genres that include folk-rock, indie-rock, and alt country, The Belle Jar’s sound has an identity that is evident throughout their broad range. Beyond the music, their performances have helped them stand out within a competitive local scene, and their energetic live shows consistently turn into impromptu dance parties.
Three years into the project, The Belle Jar has recorded two albums and is currently working on a six song EP, to be released in the spring of 2014. The most recent album, Union Station, was voted #16 in Colorado Public Radio’s Listener’s Poll for Best Album of 2013 (one of only two local bands to break the top 20!). Of Union Station, Tim Wegner of Colorado Music Buzz calls it “lively and danceable from start to finish” and asserts it is “a solid take on modern folk music.” Jon Solomon of Denver Westword writes that Union Station is “ambitious and fleshed out” and “brims with energy.” He goes on to say, “James and company have no trouble digging in and rocking out.” And Samuel Lang of 303 Magazine says this of the band’s new album: “The Belle Jar strikes gold with several dynamically entertaining, and often emotionally captivating tracks that truly portray the band’s musical depth.”
Instrumental range adds much of the depth that Lang writes about. Courtney Wilson skillfully plays keyboard, violin, and accordion as needed to flavor each of the songs. Emily Lewis, likewise contributes her masterful skill on the violin, with rhythm section contributions from JJ Chamberlain (on drums), Matthew Vermillion (on bass), and Andrew Rex (on electric guitar). When combined with the acoustic guitar, mandolin, or banjo of Ryan James and four-part vocal harmonies, the results are simply magnificent.
With critical success follows more fruitful performance opportunities, and The Belle Jar has had the good fortune to share the stage with The Kopecky Family Band, Kathryn Calder (of The New Pornographers), Bethesda, You Me and Apollo, Strange Americans, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ian Cooke, Esme Patterson, Anthony Ruptak, Mission South and many more. With this solid early success and continual musical evolution, The Belle Jar is one Denver band you don’t want to miss.