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The Bellyachers | Heavy In My Hands (Gut)
Though their 2001 debut, 'Bottoms Up' may have passed me by, I'm pleased the second album from San Francisco's The Bellyachers found its way to me because it's a treat.
Lead vocals and songwriting chores are split between Sandra Mello and Melody Baldwin-Baroz with Mello being the main contributor.  Both turn in performances that are sassy, sultry and tempestuous, often in harmonic unison. The results are often spellbinding, whether it be on atmospherically brooding numbers like Something To Cry About and You Move Me or on the fiery honky-tonk of I Follow You which also features some stunning guitar work from Brian Mello. You & Me & The Highway further incorporates Brian's vocal harmonies and some spine-tingling dobro from guest David Phillips, who also plays pedal steel on the album.  Lest we forget, mention should also be made of the band's other member - drummer Peter Craft, who apart from keeping a solid rhythm throughout also deserves singling out for the almost funereal military beat he keeps behind the melancholic Light Was So Bright as well as his very sprightly playing on the aforementioned I Follow You.  Elsewhere, additional guest and sometime Bloodshot recording artiste Rico Bell on accordion adds some occasional but enticing Tex-Mex flavours to the album.  
Some alt-country purists may balk at the inclusion of a Van Halen cover - an excellent interpretation of Jamie's Cryin' from their 'classic' debut - but frankly that would be their loss, as 'Heavy In My Hands' is abundant in riches and comes strongly recommended.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003