September 4, 2018 by Jay Minkin
One album I have been patiently awaiting is the release of Malice, Mercy, Grief, and Wrath by Belle Plaine that’s scheduled to hit record stores on October 19th. As with many songwriters I cover, it was a chance meeting twelve months ago at an AMA social event that introduced me to this extraordinary voice.
Raised in the prairie town of Fosston, Saskatchewan, Belle crochets a wonderful mix of old country, classic western, alternative rock, and jazz swing to create a beautiful blanket of music that is an artistic keepsake. Produced by Jason Plumb at Studio One in Regina, SK, her third full length release since Notes From A Waitress (2012) and The Unrequited Love (2016) takes the listener through the process of grief and loss. Themes of forgiveness, redemption, love, and hope are sprinkled throughout as Belle reflects on both of her parents passing away separately several years ago.
Along with guest artists in the studio that included Colter Wall, Kacy Anderson, and Megan Nash, her biggest supporter is always songwriter and partner Blake Berglund. Belle sings Blake’s “Taxes And Death and You” and co-wrote with him the dark and torturous “Are We Good” about a pair of lovers in the height of attraction unable to sort their drama out. With Belle on guitar, the primary players on the nine tracks include Jeremy Sauer (keyboards), Bryce Lewis (electric guitar), Elizabeth Curry (bass), Steve Leidel (drums), and Ian Cameron (pedal steel).
With the help of Cleveland singer/songwriter Thor Platter, an April itinerary brought Belle and Blake through Ohio giving me a chance to hear some of the new songs performed on stage. The opening track sets the tone with “For All Those Who I Love” melding acoustic and pedal steel that was written for her Father. This is followed by the baritone western twang of “Golden Ring” that is destined for Outlaw Country radio. With her parent’s wedding rings on a chain around her neck, Belle’s pause and punch vocal ending will have you standing and applauding in your listening room. Another great number is “Squared Up” that centers on giving up stability to do what you love; creating music and touring that has a Natalie Merchant vibe. A fan favorite on the album is the honky-tonk fun loving “Is It Cheating” along with a true story about her grandmother Laila titled “Laila Sady Johnson Wasn’t Beaten By No Train”.
A soft torch song “Radio Dreams” is highlighted by the gorgeous Cello solo by Catherine Folstead. The song weaves memories of Belle’s Mother who died of pancreatic cancer within five months of diagnosis. The mystic twilight universe brought Belle’s premature niece into this world 23 days prior to her Mom’s passing at the same hospital. Within the last verse With her on your knee/ In her red hair you leave a kiss / It’s forever, a love as true as this gives you a hint to the connection of their souls. Carmelle Pretzlaw (violin) and Leidal shine accompanying Belle on the final song “Rock Bottom” that holds the message to value the love you have in your life and to let gratitude exceed your expectations every day.
The Ohio connections fostered the new vinyl record album being manufactured by Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records and Well Made Music. Belle Plaine will be crossing the border for Americana Fest in Nashville performing on September 11th at American Legion Post 82 and September 13th at The Groove record store. By the time she makes it back to Akron, there might be some year-end award hardware to take home.