By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Local roots/pop/country/rock band Belle Starr have been churning out their roots/pop/country/ rock for three or four years now, gigging regularly around town, banging their collective head against the wall of St. Louis' standard indifference and occasionally breaking through to new audiences. But that's nothing new to Belle Starr kingpin Kip Loui; he's been chugging along on the St. Louis scene for, give or take, 15 years nonstop now (with a brief move to Seattle in there somewhere). Anyone else would have packed away his guitar case and taken up major-league drinking -- and maybe bowling -- after such a journey, but Loui's a rock (and he's only in his mid-30s).
"It's a vocation of sorts for me. Hopefully that doesn't sound too precious. But this is my creative outlet. Music is the main thrust of my life as an artist or creative person or however you want to put it -- and probably will be for a good, long time.
"Speaking of music and growing older and how it fits in one's life," continues Loui (who's never run short in the self- promotion department, either), "here's one of the things that attracts me most to country music: You get to age! There are guys out there in their 60s and 70s still playing the music, and I love that. It's kind of like being an old blues guy. I love the idea of being 75 and playing a honky-tonk somewhere on a Saturday night and having my wife and kids in the audience, and maybe their kids, and everyone's dancing. To me that sounds so right."
Loui and Belle Starr have taken a step in the right direction by recently signing with the Phoenix-based indie label Hayden's Ferry Records; they're issuing Starr's Nobody You'd Know, which the band is celebrating with a release party on Friday, Nov. 26, at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room. "Really, Hayden's Ferry is the perfect match for us," adds Louie. "They don't expect us to sell half-a-million records, and they're aware we have jobs and lives and whatnot outside of music. They also have national and European distribution, so the disc will be widely available and theoretically easy to find."
On Nobody You'd Know, Loui and fellow Starrs (Lynne Reif, Mike Schrand, Jerry Lada and Bill Yaeger) combine the aforementioned influences to create solid, if occasionally languorous, twang music. Lead singer Reif has a golden voice, and she and Loui harmonize beautifully. The best songs on the record are those on which the band wanders away from the standard "roots" structure and takes chances -- specifically on the seemingly traditional "Kinder Days" ("Once I brought the song into the studio," says Loui, "I realized it had a sort of Civil War or old-timey feel to it, so we took it that way in terms of the arrangement") and the curious "Get the Point" ("Me and the engineer were trying to come up with something a little different from the basic guitar instrumentation on the rest of the disc, and that's what popped in my head, this sort of Van Morrison-esque horn section. I try not to use stuff like that unless it really fits and in this case it seemed to.") Congrats to the band. They deserve it.
Send all local tapes, tips, discs and detritus to "Radar Station," c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Blvd., Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: Radarstation@ srftstl.com.