Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Orpheum Bell's Cool "Country & Eastern" Sound

Thanks to my hip friend Greta, I recently saw the band Orpheum Bell play a few sets at Detroit's famous Cadieux Cafe (which is, incidentally, one of my favorite local purveyors of Belgian beer).

Orpheum Bell call their sound "Country and Eastern," as in Eastern Europe. Aside from being clever, the C & E slogan accurately describes their mish-mash of musical styles (one part twang, one part gypsy, one party sultry, and one part gruff). Orpheum Bell's impressive list of instruments played well includes accordion, banjo, guitar, fiddle, clarinet, autoharp, double bass, mandolin, peddle steel, musical saw, and the rare Tiebel Violine, which looks like a fiddle strapped to an old aluminum phonograph horn (see above).

Tom Waits is an obvious musical influence, but Merrill Hodnefield's easy-going vocals produce a much more relaxed feel. Imagine Margo Timmins leading the Flatlanders in a Tom Waits cover and you'll get the idea. Highlighting Orpheum Bell's set was a rendition of Hank Snow's "90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street." It left me wanting more eastern-tinged honky-tonk. (But I did refrain from yelling for "Swingin' Doors!")

Hodnefield playing the musical saw:

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening of Belgian beer and good music. I especially like the title track off their new CD, which features Hodnefield's dulcet tones played against the raspier voice of lyricist Aaron Klein.

Pretty As You:
Pretty As You

Feel Like A Million

(buy album).

For more info, check out Orpheum Bell's MySpace page and their website.

Now listen to some of Orpheum Bell's varied influences (all of which are well worth hearing):

Twangy: The Flatlanders - Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown (buy album).

Gypsy: Django Reinhardt - The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise (out of print).

Sultry: Julie London - 'Round Midnight (buy album).

Gruff: Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombone (buy album).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info on this band! I always enjoy discovering more bands using the musical saw.

All the best,

'Saw Lady'

Paul said...

Hey Saw Lady,

I love your site. The musical saw is a very cool instrument! Thanks for checking in.