Jesse and Noah just don’t fit the mold. Which is why you need to hear them.
Like the classic sibling duos who preceded them, Jesse and Noah Bellamy share an uncanny communication as singers. But unlike many of them, they do mostly original material. Unlike many who do co-write, they follow the Lennon/McCartney model; each builds a foundation, then gives it to the other for the final polish.
They’ve also shown a willingness to explore, to the point that maybe country isn’t even the best description of what they’re doing these days. True, their musical roots show throughout their newest album, Neon Pike. But what grows from those roots spills across genre lines. Along with fiddles and steel guitars, it’s powered by thundering drums, shredding electric guitar and hefty doses of Americana, rock ’n’ roll and elements that are harder to categorize.
Their range is broad enough to encompass the shimmering steel and saloon sway of “What’s To Be Done With Me,” the galloping Allman Brothers groove of “Dreams For Days,” and the fist-pump beat and sharp chorus hook that drive “Tell It To My Tears.” The brothers have no problem veering back to bluegrass in “‘Lina Rose” and then flashing forward to a poetic commentary on the turmoil of our times on “I Just Want Rain.”
This is music without fear yet grounded by the legacy passed down through four generations of musicians in their family. And it shows how far Jesse and Noah have come since they left their family’s farm in Darby, Florida, on a journey that would lead them eventually to Nashville. There they began defining, refining and nurturing those qualities that stand them out from the crowd.
“The challenge for us has always been that we’re not traditional enough to fit with the traditional crowd or pop enough to be pop country,” says Noah. “Jesse had been writing songs since he was 12; I got into it later because I was concentrating mainly on playing guitar. By the time we moved to Nashville we were both eager to learn by writing with some of the top people in town, like Becky Hobbs, Deborah Allen and Benita Hill.”
As they sharpened their skills through these collaborations, Jesse and Noah realized that they had something unique to say, something different from what mainstream writers were doing on and beyond Music Row. “Of course, we grew up appreciating everything that our dad and his generation were creating,” Jesse says. “But they were very pop oriented. Even the country songs of that time were very melodic, very inspired by the Beatles. We love and learned a lot from that."
“We used to do a lot of close harmony, like lots of other siblings based in country,” he continues. “But now our focus is more on working as a band.”
That band provides the instrumental bedrock for Neon Pike. Bassist Linwood Regensburg, drummer Herschel Van Dyke, keyboardist Paul Defiglia of the Avett Brothers, Jack White’s fiddler Lillie Mae Rische and her sister Scarlett on mandolin all contribute to the album’s rugged but impeccably sculpted sound. The Bellamy Brothers themselves make a guest appearance on one track, “Gambler’s Heart.”
This song holds a special meaning for both brothers. “For the most part, there are only two types of father-and-son songs,” Jesse points out. “They're either about when the son is very young or after the father passed away. I wanted ‘Gambler’s Heart’ to have a different perspective when both are in the middle of their journey, when both are adults. So, I wrote it as a dialog, with the son and then the father speaking to each other.”