It was a smaller, yet highly-appreciative and thoroughly-entertained crowd that gathered at The Mack last Friday night to see the Canadian folk/roots/country trio, Belle Starr.
And the “lucky few” vibe seemed to permeate throughout the theatre from the get-go, as the evening began with an opening performance by Australia’s Jordie Lane.
Dressed funkily with a green and white polka dot shirt and a broad-brimmed hat, the Melbourne singer/songwriter strummed and plucked out his accompaniment on a sunburst Gibson acoustic, with a tambourine near his feet for added percussion.
Through a half-dozen originals ranging from road tunes about Vietnam to emotional songs like Lost in You to the bellowing chugger, Black Diamond, Lane showcased a strong voice amid enveloping story-woven songwriting.
After a brief intermission, the crowd then welcomed Belle Starr to the stage with enthusiastic applause.
With a release of its first full-length and self-titled CD in April, the trio of Stephanie Cadman, Kendel Carson and Miranda Mulholland has certainly been on the rise on the national music scene this year. It could be said that they’re taking a page out of the book of their namesake — the 19th century American crack shooter outlaw, Belle Starr — and are becoming a fierce force to be reckoned with.
And when you have an act that boasts the kind of talent that they do — three spectacular singers, a great acoustic guitarist, one of the best step dancers in the country and three fantastic fiddlers — all in one visually-striking female trio, the kind of success that they’ve been finding is definitely not surprising.
Back on a Charlottetown stage once again, it was the feet of Stephanie Cadman (former Celtic Blaze/Anne of Green Gables/Canada Rocks performer) that clicked out the first sounds of their set, as the trio reeled us in right away with a smooth and richly harmonized vocal resonance, over top of Cadman’s percussive taps on the stage.
Carrying on into Dolly Parton’s classic, Jolene, they enchanted the crowd further, with Carson on guitar/vocals and Mulholland and Cadman on fiddle/vocals.
“It’s always so incredible to be back on the Island,” said Cadman in between songs. “I started performing with the Charlottetown Festival almost 10 years ago. Believe it or not, I was a child of Avonlea!” she laughed.
Heading straight into Tougher than the Rest, the fourth track on their CD, they took things up a notch, displaying the kind of incomparably-textured string sound you can only get when multiple fiddles sing out together.
And throughout their set of about a dozen tunes, the trio wisely took great advantage of this multi-fiddle feature — to the delight of the audience — and it was particularly striking on the several occasions when all three fiddles played simultaneously as was the case with an ensemble of tunes, featuring St. Anne’s Reel at its end, which was then enhanced further when Cadman brought it home in a wowing step dance.
Receiving a standing ovation for their performance, the trio returned to the stage for a sing-along encore of Buck Owens’ Under Your Spell Again to send us home on a sugary note.
Belle Starr is the kind of group that could almost become a national household name overnight for when an act is brimming with instrumental, vocal and dance talent, is visually stunning and is woven together in a unique soundscape and engaging overall presentation, this kind of a future seems almost destined.
All they need is one pop country radio hit, and this can/will happen in a big way for them. And as they continue to evolve as songwriters and as a live touring trio, the chances will only become greater in this way that Belle Starr will be finding its lucky star.
For more information on Belle Starr and to check out some music and beautifully-shot videos, visit http://bellestarr.ca.
Next week: I’ll tell you all about Three Pound Cloud at The Guild tomorrow night. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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