The unique and soulful folk melodies of Blue Mountain Belle made waves at PJ’s Lager House Thursday night. The audience reveled in the surprisingly superb acoustics of the small and intimate Michigan Avenue bar in Corktown.
Lead by Stephanie Hamood from Rochester, MI on vocals and rhythm guitar, the Detroit-formed band strummed their strings with a folk rhythm and honky-tonk bite. Hamood’s voice transcends many generations and is arguably a cross between Joan Baez and Adele, with an undertone of old Detroit Motown. Her stage presence and voice project to the audience in an enchanting way.
Nick Bourgeau is a delightful companion to Hamood’s folk rhythms, playing honky-tonk guitar with an adept understanding of musical theory and soul-blues. His background mostly came from “jazz and experimental noise music,” which comes as a handy tool in his soloing. Bourgeau is also a phenomenal slide-guitarist. He uses this background to accomplish simple yet stirringly passionate ideas across his fretboard.
Bourgeau and Hamood grew up three blocks away from each other in Rochester, but never knew each other. After a brief stint in Nashville’s honky-tonk scene and touring with Grammy-award-winning Anita Baker, Hamood found herself back in Michigan where she met Bourgeau and formed Blue Mountain Belle.
Pete Steffy, from the northeast side of Detroit, skillfully thumped along on standup bass at PJ’s, while Sam Ridgell of Sterling Heights rounded out the band with percussion. Steffy’s standup bass style compliments and solidifies the folk sound the band is trying to achieve. Ridgell helped create the wonderful on-stage chemistry that kept the band in sync.
Blue Mountain Belle’s website proclaims they enjoy everything from “antique furniture,” to “the wild west,” to “trying to outdraw Clint Eastwood in front of the TV.” They describe themselves as “playing roots-driven indie-folk that matches our denim.” “Indie-folk” isn’t a genre that quite captures their whole sound, though. To pigeonhole them in this category would be underselling them.
John Katona from Michigan’s own Dog & Panther, helped produce the band’s first EP, the self-titled “Blue Mountain Belle,” which can be found on their website. Their debut EP is only a small amount of the mass potential they have. Most EP’s are meant to be a small taste of a band, but this one has just started to tap into the classic and unique sound that they displayed live. It will be intriguing and exciting to see what they do next.
A few of the other bands that performed at PJ’s were Seven Birds One Stone, Woven Tangles, and Big Spirit. Each band carried a similar sound to Blue Mountain Belle, but added many flavors of their own. Woven Tangles stood out amongst the bunch as they encouraged fans to dance to their high-energy folk rock tunes for a free tank top. Although, only three people danced, it was worth the effort.
PJ’s Lager House is a satisfying setting for this type of show. It sports a record shop in the basement, while also sharing a live stream of each show on its website. It has become an enjoyable place for local independent bands to showcase their music. PJ, the friendly and hard-working owner, can be seen bar tending and helping in the kitchen most nights.
Not to fret, it is just the start of Blue Mountain Belle as they formed last year and plan on continuing to tour the metro-Detroit area. Their next show will be at The Phoenix Cafe in Hazel Park on Friday, August 22nd.
Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.