Harmonious waltzes and Appalachian beatboxing.
Around this time last year, we had the pleasure of visiting Ballyholme Yacht Club, nestled by the bay on the outskirts of Bangor. The sun set across the lough, the waves lapped against the rock and that night the music from The Eastern was sublime. Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys have big boots to fill and the bar room is packed to the rafters with expectant folk fans.
There’s a bit of a buzz going around, part cheap Belgian beer and part rumours of just how good this young Michigan four-piece really are. A quick tune-up later and all bets are off. This lot are serious players, influenced clearly by the old time string acts and Americana forefathers with slick playing and serious harmonies. I’m a sucker for a good country song and the Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King ‘Tennessee Walltz’ is something of an anthem, certainly one that takes serious chops to take on. Lindsay Lou steps up to the challenge, leans into the mic and lays down some smoky jazz infused melodies. By the last chorus, those vocals have soared off heavenward, should such a place exist. Transcendent in the dusk, you could be in Bartlett, Brentwood, Belfast or Bangor. The fact of the matter is you’ll remember that moment.
‘My Side Of The Mountain’ is probably one of the older original songs on the setlist, a proper good old tune, music for moonshiners with various Flatbellys taking the mic for a verse. ‘Hot Hands’, in comparison, from the 2015 release ‘Ionia’, is more subtle in which sleeve it wears its influences. Surely someone in the bass section has been kicking back to some hip-hop beats. There’s a steady groove and a contemporary edge under the plucky mandolin riffing and three-part harmonies. A string plucked solo that echoes of George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’, some Seeger-esque banjo and then the crowd take over to lay down some beatboxing. It might be a little bit avant garde for the white-collar crowd but it’s pulled off with charming grins from the stage and somehow it all pulls together.