Straight-up country

David Keating speaks with purveyor of tearful tunes, Joe Belly.

With a full year of touring ahead of him, Joe Belly is getting ready to launch his latest album, Nickles and Dimes, at the Ship.

The final pressed and packaged CD has yet to arrive, but Joe Belly is steadily making plans for a year of touring that will have him on the road until the fall of this year.

“Right now, there’s a tour to Ireland planned for July, for maybe two weeks,” he says. “Myself and Sherry (Ryan) are going to do that together. We just decided for sure to do it today.”

Other planned dates include a tour to Ontario in the late spring and performances on the Folk Festival circuit in August.

For Belly, who won the MusicNL 2008 Country Artist of the Year on the strength of his previous album Crawlin Out Of A Hole, the lessons learned from his last studio session led him to a different approach in recording the tracks for Nickles and Dimes.

“Last one, we basically did in three days,” he says. “We went in to the studio really well rehearsed… This one, I had a bunch of cool stuff in mind so I brought the band in for four or five songs. We still did the band stuff pretty quickly, but then I brought people in separately. I brought the steel player and the fiddle player in after the fact, and then Sherry recorded some piano at our house and I had to finish some songs.

I still hadn’t finished a couple of tunes. The band hadn’t played a few songs. So it was kind of neat to do it that way- it cost more money, but the songs changed a bit more. Whereas, the first time we kind of banged them out. There was really no room to do that. This one we kind of played around a bit more.”

Drawing on several different veins of country music for the record, the title track of Nickles and Dimes is a John Prine-inspired folk tune. Other songs channel musicians not always considered in the country tradition, like Neil Young. Some tunes hearken back to the 50s and 60s, including a duet ballad with Sherry Ryan.

“I call what I do country,” says Belly. “It’s got folk and blues and rock elements, but there are some straight-up country tunes. I mean, the modern country music stations wouldn’t play it, it’s not new country. To me, it’s closer to traditional country.”

Joe Belly and the Sin City Ramblers launch their new album Nickles and Dimes at The Ship on Saturday, January 30th. Supporting acts include The Domestics, The Cowan Mountain Boys and Sherry Ryan. Visit Joe Belly online at www.myspace.com/joebelly