Quick Picks #2 Joan Shelley, Alan Williams, and Bella White

Joan Shelley “The Spur”

Photo by Amber Thieneman

Joan Shelley hails from Kentucky and there’s something very rural and very real about her sound. Her musical influences range from the traditional music of the United Kingdom to the familiar names from the world of country music like Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton, and Roger Miller. My own personal take: Joan Shelley is Gillian Welch meets Sandy Denny. There’s something translucent about her songs–the lyrics and the music weave in and out and allows you to absorb every last nuance as you listen. Joan’s latest album, The Spur is Americana at its best. Joan’s Kentucky roots are deep and her music hits hard.

Here’s a fascinating video of the title cut.

Alan Williams: “Giving You a Warning”

“Giving You a Warning” can be heard here. What Boston-based band influenced this song?

I first discovered Alan Williams as the leader of Birdsong in Morning which has been hailed as the “greatest act you’ve never heard of.” Alan is a man of many talents. He teaches music at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, fronts a rock band, teaches yoga and provides improvisational “soundscapes” for special yoga classes throughout New England. His latest album, Currents came to be during the unrest of the pandemic and was pieced together with his musical colleagues, Greg Porter (Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin) and Ben Wittman on drums (Sting, Paula Cole, Laurie Anderson) and Williams plays acoustic and electric guitars, piano, percussion, synth keyboards and cowbell! Alan cites these artists as influences Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, Roxy Music, King Sunny Ade, Brian Wilson, Paul Jackson Jr., Led Zeppelin, The Cars, Neil Finn, Allan Holdsworth, Steely Dan, and Jimmy Johnson. Check out Alan’s website for a list of the additional Cast of Characters who contributed to the album. It’s quite a musical gumbo.

Here’s a special bonus — a video of a song called “Think of the Night” from Currents.

Alan Williams – Direction and Animation; Dan Bennett – Images

Bella White “The Way I Oughta Go”

Bella White by Portia Burton

Bella White is a young musician who is well on the way to becoming a “must see” as she begins to make her mark with the release of her debut album Just Like Leaving. Bella is from Calgary, Alberta but apparently her father’s Virginia roots magically diffused into her musical psyche. Rolling Stone Country aptly describes Bella’s music as “sublime Applachian heartbreak.” Bella confides that the album was a way for her to process her coming of age. At 20, Bella has obtained showcase slots at many well-respected bluegrass festivals like the upcoming Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival and the presitigous Earl Scruggs Music Festival. As Bella relates in her bio, Just Like Leaving feels like a storybook of the things I went through when I was 18 and 19—each song is about a very specific feeling from my relationships during that time,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of younger people tell me that they relate to the experience of learning about yourself through someone else, and I’ve also had older folks tell me how it reminds them of when they were younger. I used to fear sometimes that I might run out of things to say in my songs, but I don’t feel that way after seeing how this album has affected people. It’s reminded me that there will always be a creative source for me to tap into.” 

Here’s the official video for “Just Like Leaving.”