Belmore gets relaxed, reflective

Written by Stephen Cooke.

Listening to These Fields, the new CD from country-folk singer Betty Belmore, the first word that comes to mind is “homespun.”

Not just for the way its largely acoustic soundscape unspools under the guiding hand of her co-producer, fellow Mighty Oak String Band member Greg Simm, but also for its recurring themes of family, love and loss.

 

Betty Belmore on the front porch of her Halifax home. (RYAN TAPLIN / Staff)

It turns out the word also aptly describes the way the record came together, as Grey Gables Studio, where it was recorded, is actually the living room of the home Belmore shares with Halifax jazz pianist Bill Stevenson, a stone’s throw from the Frog Pond off Purcells Cove Road.

“It was nice to just be comfortable, and the guys all just came over and played,” says Belmore, sitting on her front porch over a soundtrack of screeching blue jays and nattering chickadees. “They’re all friends, so I didn’t feel that pressure of being in a studio space.”

Belmore and her musical friends bring the relaxed and reflective songs from These Fields to a pair of CD release shows this weekend at the Company House in Halifax on Saturday at 8 p.m. and in West Gore on Sunday, 6 p.m., at Birch Burn Centre on her sister Bonnie’s property.

She also joins the Mighty Oak String Band in the Annapolis Valley on Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the annual Boates Farm chicken barbecue in Woodville (north of Cambridge, between Coldbrook and Berwick). It’s not a CD release show, but it sure sounds like a fun and delicious time.

A songwriter since the 1970s, Belmore’s also known as a fine interpreter of older country tunes and jazz standards, but These Fields marks the first time she’s devoted an entire album to her own compositions.

She calculates it took four years from putting pen to paper to releasing the finished record, her fourth after 1997’s The Harvest is Ready, the 2002 seasonal collection A Song in the Air and In the Pink, which she recorded with her mother Dolly and aunt Bobby Annand.

“I guess there just comes a point where you realize you’ve gotten older, and you have something to say,” says Belmore, who notes there was a fair bit of trial and error along the way as she and Simm shaped the tunes and put them together. “I’m happy with it now, and Greg was really instrumental in being there and making sure they’re natural sounding songs.”

The mood ranges from the barrelhouse groove of Mourning Dove, driven by Thom Swift’s dobro and a tuba bass line played by Simm, to My Heart’s beautiful jazz ballad, delivered by a mother to her prodigal son.

Through the years, her style has been described as “old-time music,” but on These Fields the songs are about everyday concerns of life and the passing of time rather than nostalgia and trying to recapture the past.

“Each song is a little story, and I tried to present them that way,” says Belmore, who came of musical age in the 1960s, enamoured of the records of musicians like Joan Baez, Gene MacLellan and Jesse Winchester. “To say it’s ‘old-time’  it’s not really, except in the idea that the music is about people and their stories.”

For more about Betty Belmore, and to sample the songs on These Fields, visit bettybelmore.com/

Another CD getting a launch this weekend is in aid of a worthy cause, helping those who feel like they have nowhere to turn.

Life Support is a new compilation designed to raise money for suicide prevention, organized by the non-profit organization Compassion Action. The CD includes the participation of Sarah McLachlan, who won’t be at the launch on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Big Leagues Beverage Room in Cole Harbour, but there will be performances by Jon Mullane, Patrick Murray, Patrick Thompson, Sperry Alan, Wanda Rose Milne & Keith McNeil and more.

Glen Canning, father of Rehtaeh Parsons, will also be on hand as the evening’s guest of honour.

 

Original article at The Chronicle Herald