By The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass., Aug 13, 2010
Hull songwriter and Bellevue Cadillac front man, Doug Bell, has so much new material he can barely keep track of it.
Bellevue Cadillac - the eight-piece "little big band" - has a soon-to-arrive live CD ("Once in a Blue Moon") that was recorded in Greece last winter.
In addition, Bell is also about to record his first solo album, with noted producer Dan Penn. And that is not even counting the 20 or so Bellevue Cadillac songs used on TV and film soundtracks.
The popular local swing band has a hometown gig on Saturday night at the C-Note on Nantasket Beach, the cozy seaside club where singer- guitarist Bell can often be found when he's not on the road.
The live CD from an extended stop in Greece wasn't planned. Bell, who is known as "The Professor," said the octet was not quite prepared for the reception it got in Greece.
"We expected to maybe do a studio record upon our return, and then I wanted to figure out how I could record my own stuff," Bell said. "But because of the time of year, and the hunger for American music, we ended up selling out 13 consecutive nights at this club in the heart of Athens. The band sounded really good, and the acoustics were great, so I began thinking maybe we ought to preserve something. I asked this Greek guy serving as sound engineer, George Panagiotakopoulos, if we could make tapes from the soundboard - and he told me he was already doing that. He delivered to me a virtually perfect recording of our whole gig there, and the highlights of that became this new album."
The cover of the new album is a nighttime photo of a full moon and the Parthenon, which was right down the street from the club. The band Photoshopped a small image of Bell, playing guitar with his trademark fedora, kicking up his heels in front of the moon.
Bell said that tenor saxman Bruce "The Goose" McGrath of Quincy became a particular favorite of the Greek crowds, who were chanting his name and giving standing ovations for his solos.
"One of the best parts of the trip was seeing a guy like Bruce, who's been working hard, paying his dues for so long on the local circuit for not much dough, get that kind of treatment," said Bell. "You could just see the lift it gave him."
Bellevue Cadillac has been hailed as one of the best purveyors of the Swing Revival of the past decade, but their songbook has always had diversity, partly due to Bell's songwriting. Bellevue Cadillac tunes might be easily appreciated for their delectable melodies, easy sense of swing, or catchy choruses, but many bear repeated listening for their less obvious charms. "Summerset" is one of the five new tunes on the latest CD that ends up delivering much more than you might expect at first listen.
"That one started out as one thing, and then developed so many storylines, one on top of another, it became a panorama," Bell said.
Another Bellevue Cadillac song that became a favorite of the Greek crowds was "Jaja Opobo," a lilting Caribbean-flavored tune that tells the tale of a Nigerian king who was deposed by British colonialists, and lived out his days in exile in the Canary Islands.
"You know the funny thing about 'Jaja Opobo,' which was written kind of tongue-in-cheek, is that we've been contacted by a festival in the Canary Islands," Bell said. "They have determined when the real Jaja died there, and want us to come down and play the song at their festival next year."
While the newest CD has been ready to go for a couple of months, Bellevue Cadillac hasn't announced an official release date. Bell has been biding his time, burned by the way the band's last album, 2006's "Love Allways," was hampered by lack of promotion.
He said that the C-Note performance will serve as the closest thing to an official local release party.
"The last time we played the C-Note, we played the entire new album for our first set," Bell said.
"Then we made the second set our usual grab-bag of new and old tunes. Playing the Scituate Heritage Days Fest last weekend did a lot to help us get the new music out there."
At the end of August, Bell will be heading to Nashville to record with Penn, putting the big band on hold for a spell. The bandleader has had an ever-growing store of songs he's written that don't fit the Bellevue Cadillac style.
"My solo stuff is all over the map, but mainly acoustic," Bell said. "I play some Delta-style blues with the resonator guitar, get a bit into Americana territory on some other tunes, and also work off a Memphis soul vibe sometimes. Some of my solo stuff gets close to country, and that's one area that doesn't fit Bellevue Cadillac.
A somewhat goofy, lighthearted side venture for Bell comes through his ukulele playing. He is part of an ad-hoc group called Sons of the Beach, which includes saxophonist Steve Jarrell, a former member of Dick Dale's Del-Tones. As part of that act, Bell was in Nashville for the recent induction ceremonies at the hall of fame for sidemen, where Kid Rock introduced him to Keith Richards. Bell also has a photo of himself taken with Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who, it turns out, is a fellow ukulele enthusiast.
"It's a hall or fame designed to salute the musicians who play behind the stars," said Bell. "It was an eye-opening experience for me - those Nashville guys can play anything. Steve and I, with a keyboardist, played at the after-party."
By Catherine Groux, The Patriot Ledger, August 06, 2010
For decades people have flocked to Scituate to attend the annual Heritage Days festival. Gerry McMorrow, concert promoter for the event, said he expects this weekend will be no different. The Chamber of Commerce will present the festival Saturday and Sunday, with events running both days on Front Street and surrounding areas. McMorrow calls the festival a "mini Mardi Gras," featuring carnival rides, artisan crafts, childrenís activities, and historical site visits, all with views of Scituate Harbor. Music, however, remains the chief attraction. This year, the festival will feature performances by folk artist Tom Rush and jazz band Bellevue Cadillac. McMorrow credits the live music for the tremendous growth of the festival since he watched bands perform in front of his Front Street shop in the 1970s. "The music has become a big catalyst in the growth of the event," he said. "It has grown immensely in the past few years." Currently, McMorrow said the festival draws about 40,000 people to Scituate over two days. "Itís fun," he said. "Youíll see nothing like it anywhere around here."
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