Music » Music Stories

For Whom the Belle Tolls

Beloved St. Louis country-pop act calls it a day


After ten years of steady gigging, local roots-pop veterans Belle Starr are calling it quits. The band released its third CD, Notes From the Broom Factory, a few months ago on the Tempe, Arizona-based label Hayden's Ferry, but Radar Station, Nellycentric bastard that she is, never got around to writing about it. Fans of Belle Starr's distinctive country-tinged pop will find a lot to love on the new record, which was sympathetically produced by the magnificent Mike Martin (resident engineer/proprietor of the titular Broom Factory). The thirteen tracks are clean and warm and catchy: If individual songs are a wee bit cloying here and there, perhaps a little musical-theater winsome for degenerate dirt-rock ears, the overall sound is more than strong enough to compensate for such niggling annoyances. All five members -- Lynne Reif, Kip Loui, Mike Schrand, Bill Yaeger and Jerry Lada -- are fine musicians, and three of them assume lead-vocal and songwriting duties as well. Though the best numbers are sung by Reif and written by Loui (who's also in the genius-trad outfit the Rockhouse Ramblers and the all-star cover band Diesel Island), Belle Starr manages to never actually bite the big one, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Confession time: The main reason we haven't written much about Belle Starr in the past is that it's difficult to say anything even marginally interesting about their music -- which probably says more about our own creative shortcomings than it says about theirs, but what's to be done? Nice, competent, pretty and consistent music is generally far more pleasant to hear than vile, inept, ugly and all-over-the-place music, but the latter is usually more fun to read about. Don't think it's fair? Take it up with the editors of The Rockcrit Fancy Talkin' Manual, who specifically instruct all practitioners of our noble craft to ignore any music that can't be described as "crunk," "experimental" or "coruscating."

Though Radar Station feels sad and bad about the demise of Belle Starr, Reif and Loui are characteristically sanguine. In their official announcement, they summarize the decision thusly: "Don't cry for us, Argentina. We have three critically acclaimed CDs to our name and countless fond memories of colorful characters and wacky gigs. But ... we've decided to bow out gracefully while we're still having fun and on top of our game, musically speaking. Mind, we claim the right to reunite in the future under the right circumstances, everyone's crazy-busy schedule allowing. We still like each other and all's well on that front, not to worry.... Unlike The X Files, we prefer to resist the temptation of sticking around past our prime."

A classy end for a class act. Get all misty at Belle Starr's farewell gig this Friday, November 22, at Off Broadway. Also on the bill is the fabulous and woefully underrated One Fell Swoop, apparently off hiatus after a longish fallow period.

Young World, the long-awaited debut from teenage rap phenoms the Young Boyz, hits stores this Friday, with a big in-store shindig planned for Saturday afternoon at the Delmar Streetside. According to VIP Records president Kevin "Face" Tallie, Young World is the most requested unreleased local CD at area record stores. The ridiculously infectious lead single, "Bounce," is also getting decent airplay on both Q95.5 and 100.3 The Beat, and not just on the evening mix shows but during primo drive-time slots.

We wouldn't wish a major-label deal on our worst enemies these days, but the Boyz seem as ready as anyone to take on the challenge. They're cute, they're clean (at least as far as those literalist dopes of the FCC are concerned), and they're all under seventeen years old. "There's no cussing," Tallie says proudly. "They don't promote drug use or selling drugs, and they don't talk about violence. They talk about kid stuff, having fun."

"Kid stuff" might be overselling it a bit: Absence of cussing notwithstanding, there's no way the Young Boyz will ever end up on Radio Disney. In the chorus to "Bounce," the pubescent trio urge their female fans to "get up out your seat, girl, and go on shake that meat, girl," and in one of its verses, sixteen-year-old sweetie Scotty Lee brags that "the gangstas call me Gotti when I roll in a body."

"Bounce" is stupid and hilarious and brilliant and terrible -- and, for those of you who wonder whether we're mocking it or celebrating it, we're doing both, so sue us already. Some rap songs are designed for teachin', preachin' and heavy thinkin'; others are made for teenage twurkin'. The Young Boyz aren't gonna raise anyone's consciousness -- thank heaven for small favors -- and if rampant coochiephilia and insipid boasting raise your ire, there's a new album by local prog-rapper Jonathan Toth From Hoth that's got your name on it. (More on this dude soon, promise.)

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