Jesse and Noah Bellamy are a brother duo, and just as other classic brother groups (The Louvin Brothers, The Everlys, The Kinks, et al.) who have forged their own unique sound and identities, Jesse and Noah are also pushing musical boundaries to create their own path.
With their third record, Driven Back (due out on January 8, 2013), the duo delivers an eclectic mix of roots-rock, power-pop, country and Americana. Coming from a family of musicians they are the fourth generation to play music. Their father and uncle are the well-known Bellamy Brothers and their grandfather, Homer, played professionally at local dances, while his father before him was a fiddler.
Raised by their grandparents while their parents toured, the duo was first influenced by their grandparents’ love of traditional country music and the popular music of the WWII era. “When we started playing guitar”, said Jesse, “we fell in love with blues, jazz and sixties rock. Hanging out at Dad’s recording sessions, led us to develop an appreciation of the recording process as an art form.”
After years of writing and recording with different record labels and becoming disillusioned with Music Row of Nashville, Jesse and Noah have thrown away the rulebook to forge their own sound. Driven Back is self-produced and independently released. Recorded at their project studio in Franklin, TN (just outside of Nashville), they were very conscience of keeping the project authentic and not over-produced.
Both brothers wrote the songs on the record (the exception being “You Could Have Had It All” which was written by Jesse Bellamy with Steve Clark)—with most of the songs being written as they recorded them, unlike previous projects. Accomplished multi-instrumentalists, they’re responsible for the majority of the tracks on Driven Back, with vocals led by Jesse, with Noah harmonizing. As Jesse told the music website Riveting Riffs, “We just really wanted to make a good record…these songs don’t have to work outside the context of this record. That is the cool thing about a lot of them. It was just about feels and putting words up against them and seeing what stuck.”
The 10 tracks on the album start with “Weather Man”, an up-tempo folk rock tune (featuring the violin of Elin Palmer). “True Love Doesn’t Beg” features a Latin-infused ‘exotica’ styled murder ballad that features guitar in the style of Link Wray. “Lilly Vereen” is a Southern Gothic themed waltz set in New Orleans. Once again Elin Palmer is featured on nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish keyed violin, with Noah on auto-harp adding to the chamber-folk aesthetic. (Side note: the lyrical imagery was inspired by photographer E.J. Bellocq’s famous “Storyville” portraits from around 1912.)
The title song, “Driven Back” is a garage blues tune that features over-driven feedback laden guitars, while “You Could Have Had It All” jumps to a retro country-pop ballad with an interesting dual vocal harmony. “Traveler’s Prayer” uses ukulele to bring us a roots reggae inspired song while “Bend in the Road” is tribute to the 70’s country-pop of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb.
Trying to re-create what their grandfather’s band may have sounded like, the brothers came up with “The Homer Bellamy Centennial Blue Yodel”. Influenced by early country artists like Jimmie Rodgers, Frank Hutchison, and Cliff Carlisle, the instrumentation was inspired by the pre-bluegrass 1930’s ‘hillbilly’ music.
“Florida Water” is homage to their much-maligned home state, combining southern musical traditions with the Latin-Caribbean cultural influences of the Peninsula. “Guilty of Myself” ends the record with a stripped down semi-acoustic ballad.
Fans are of great importance to the brothers and their past records have built a huge following in Texas, with their debut project Nowhere Revisited being based out of Fort Worth and with the Smith Music Group. Their first single, “Daddy’s got a Shot Gun” made the Texas Music Chart’s top 50 songs of 2006. Their second release, Landfall generated fans from Texas to Tennessee and in between and even charted on the HotDisc Top 40 in Europe.
Traditionally, brother duos have been some of the most creative and innovative in the history of Rock and Country Music—Jesse and Noah are willing and able to live up to that tradition. With Driven Back, the brothers are proving that they are self-sufficient artists who can cross genres and gain fans simply through hard work, good music and great songs.