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How the West was one plus one plus one: meet Belle Starr, the talented new trio of Stephanie Cadman, Kendel Carson and Miranda Mulholland. The band's namesake outlaw is a stereotype-flaunting renegade who did hard time for horse theft. Perhaps the fugitive Belle Starr is an extreme role model, but for a group that spent one of their first music video shoots learning how to hotwire a car, the "Bandit Queen" provides a certain kind of rebellious inspiration.
Make no mistake: Belle Starr is a band that defies expectations. On their first full-length album, the trio presents a cleverly curated collection of top-quality tunes, an unexpected repertoire rooted in their impeccable taste in modern music. From treasured Canadian indies to the marquee icons, Belle Starr puts their twist on the old time folk resurgence, tuning their fiddles to the more recent past.
As a whole, Belle Starr's self-titled album orbits themes of love and identity. "Now whatcha gonna do when the planet shifts," asks the opening track, John Hiatt's "Cry Love," a catchy staccato kick-off that immediately dispels any assumptions that Belle Starr makes typical fiddle music. "New Girl Now," penned by Jack Marks, is a tale of moving on while trying not to look back. This lively brush-off is told with countrified toe-tapping sass. Other highlights include the gritty romance of Springsteen's "Tougher Than The Rest," and the graceful battle cry of Justin Rutledge's "Be A Man." The album includes original Belle Starr instrumentals that strengthen the starry sky sparkle of their sound. "Arthur's Air", "Charity Kiss" and "Plough The Sea" draw three individual styles together, and fuse considerably modern influences with old time tradition.
There's always a story behind a fiddle (or three). Stephanie Cadman, a champion step-dancer (who now provides Belle Starr's rhythm section), speculates that, "fiddlers tend to choose an instrument close to the quality of their speaking voices. My violin has a lot of low end to its tone, which I like. I have a low voice, so my violin and I match. She doesn't have a name but she's definitely a woman too." Kendel Carson brandishes an oddball German-made fiddle approximately a century old, recommended to her by her very first violin teacher. "It has a false label inside and it is slightly askew. I don't mind, maybe I am too." Finally, Miranda found her fiddle at Mariposa Folk Festival. Too bad it had an owner. Eventually, her friend sold it to her to buy a pedal steel. Of the coveted instrument, Miranda says, "It's a really growly and lovely violin and has a velvety dark tone. The only clue I have is a label inside that indicates that it was repaired in Toronto in 1895...so it's a bit of a mystery, which I like."
Miranda, Kendel and Stephanie make an impressive trio, and bring experience from all genres. As busy solo artists, Miranda is a member of indie darlings Great Lake Swimmers; Kendel is well-known in the Americana world, in part from her work with "Wild Thing" songwriter Chip Taylor; and Stephanie is a prize-winning fiddler and dancer from Ottawa.