Beautifully executed and recorded, this collection of 10 songs from Oakland based Eight Belles boasts enchanting melodies, haunting narratives and a classic soundscape you may not want to leave once you enter. An ache of nostalgia and longing immediately took hold of me upon first listening to this album. Singer Jessi Phillips’ voice balances deftly between classic-country-western-diva and bittersweet-wistful without being indulgent or kitschy in any way and the rest of the band seems to have no trouble establishing an appropriate space for the big, rich vocals to inhabit. Imagine waking from a dream in which you have entered an abandoned ghost filled landscape and as you lie there awake, as illogical as it is, you can’t escape that tug – that heavy ache – that irrational desire to return. This describes something of the vibe of this recording. This is a music that is deeply rooted in a long country music tradition while still feeling relevant and not overly twangy; I feel as though the band’s cover of Richard Hawley’s “Tonight The Streets Are Ours” squarely aligns them with an underground ethos and particular cultural currents.
My only gripe – if I had one – about this album is that it doesn’t really take any big risks. It moves comfortably mostly amid charted waters. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with that, I think that this band is probably capable of greatness and I find myself wanting them to push things further in some way. Still though, for a first album, Girls Underground is pretty amazing. I think there is every likelihood that these guys will become very popular. So check out this album now and you can say “Eight Belles? Oh yeah, I was into them…”