The Martha Bassett Show

Abby Posner / Bill & the Belles / Jeffrey Dean Foster

Thu, May 18, 2023
The Reeves Theater & Cafe

Abby Posner

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Abby Posner has been a working musician in Los Angeles for the past 18 years.  She is best known for her ability to play nearly any instrument that she can get her hands on, twisting genres, and pushing the boundaries of folk, roots, electronic, and pop music making her "Genre Fluid." If you have seen Abby perform live, you know she can play a mean lead-blues guitar solo, or throw down a complex Earl Scruggs banjo riff. You also may have spotted her playing drums, mandolin, or bass while using her looping pedal. In addition to her versatility, she puts passion and soul into everything she does.

This CalArts music graduate has composed & produced music for commercials/TV, films, and radio shows all over the globe (including Hulu’s Maggie, The Fosters, This American Life, The Art of More, and Last Tango in Halifax, custom songs for Facebook, Viacom-CBS, and CW’s Kung Fu). She also has music placed in commercials and TV shows all over China, Sweden, The UK, and Australia. Posner appeared in two episodes of GLEE on season four playing banjo and guitar, and the Freeform show Famous In Love playing banjo, as well as performing live several times on KCAL 9 news and Good Day LA.

 Posner has also scored the music for multiple films (Across Land Across Sea, Through Their Eyes, award winning short animation Elizabeth Sees, and recently scored the Award-winning Documentary Lady Buds) while playing and touring all over the US.  In 2019 Posner played banjo and sang Wagon Wheel as a featured principal role in Bank Of America's ad campaign for the Ken Burn’s PBS Country Music Documentary.

 After signing with Gary Calamar’s licensing company Laurel Canon in 2016, Abby Posner has gained major recognition in the LA music scene. Opening for such iconic acts as PHRANC, Sierra Hull, and Dustbowl Revival.  She has released multiple albums under her Name Abby Posner, and Abby & The Myth, and will be releasing two records with Blackbird Music Label in 2023. 

 In 2020 Abby Posner won the Carl Gage "Give me Shelter in Place" Songwriting Award through the Topanga Folk Festival for her original song Blind Spots, and she received the runner up for her song Emergency Use Only for the 18th Annual International Acoustic Music Awards.  She was honored to land an Official Showcase at Folk Alliance International in 2022 after signing with her booking agency Baker Booking.

Learn more at https://www.abbyposner.com

Bill & the Belles

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With their enchanting debut album, Dreamsongs, Etc., Bill and the Belles have captured the freewheeling, lighthearted approach to music that has endeared them to listeners of every generation. With a spirited sound that falls somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville, the group puts its own spin on a golden era of music, specifically the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

“We like old music and some of us are consumed by it,” says lead singer and guitarist Kris Truelsen with a knowing laugh. “But we don't have a desire to copy it. We want to sound like ourselves and tell our story.”

As a result, a majority of the material on DreamSongs, Etc., is original, from the upbeat number, “Wedding Bell Chimes,” through the yearning ode to youth, “Back to My Childhood Days.” While Truelsen’s distinctive tenor anchors the project, the Tennessee-based band’s trio harmonies gleam against a backdrop of banjo, fiddle, accordion, ukulele, and clarinet.

“The title seemed appropriate in that a lot of the songs are about dreaming for something better, better days, better lovers, better whatever it may be,” Truelsen says. “Not to mention many of the songs we chose to sing are about the sentimental dreamer.”

The band takes its name from Bill and Belle Reed, performers from the 1920s who recorded the songs “Old Lady and the Devil” and “You Shall Be Free” in Johnson City, Tennessee. Truelsen says, “That was the first time I heard ‘Old Lady and the Devil,’ and since then it’s become clear to me why it’s stood the test of time. Simple, plaintive, stripped-down but incredibly expressive, tough as nails and funny as hell. I first heard that side on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, a collection that continues to inspire. Our band’s name is a way to honor their music, the music of this place, and this region in general that we’ve come to call home. 

In 2015 Bill and the Belles stepped into the role of house band upon the launch of a live radio show, Farm and Fun Time, presented by Radio Bristol. Truelsen launched that community radio station, housed within the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Tennessee. Along with sharing the stage with the nation’s top roots artists (Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, Del McCoury and Earls of Leicester), the band writes and performs the snappy, comical jingles for the show’s monthly sponsors.

“Singing and playing music in front of audiences is great but when you add in the platform of live radio it’s even better,” Truelsen believes. “Especially when the audience is a community of folks who come day in and day out to support you. What a feeling, and boy, the stakes seem higher with live radio – like it’s bigger than just us playing music. It keeps us on our toes and makes us want to deliver not only good music but a good show.”

It’s that same combination of expert musicianship and spontaneity that makes DreamSongs, Etc. sound so alive. Working with engineer Joseph Dejarnette, the band recorded the project in just two days of sessions inside a beautiful old farmhouse in the rolling hills of Southeast Virginia.

The trio recorded around one microphone while rounding out the sound with addition of accordion and clarinet. Home-cooked meals and picturesque surroundings made the experience even more rewarding. “The small cities like Johnson City and Bristol tucked in between the mountains are inspiring to me,” Truelsen says. “I find the tension of urban and countryside to be a beautiful thing.”

After growing up in the mountains of Colorado, Truelsen rambled through Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago, before landing in Johnson City in 2011.

“The musical history of the region is what brought me here,” he says. “I have long listened to recordings from ‘20s and ‘30s, and once you start digging into the stories and the people behind the music it's incredible to find how many talented musicians through the years made their home in these mountains. How many people were drawn here because of the advent of location recordings, development of radio, and various music-making opportunities that were hard to come by in certain parts of the world.”

Of course one of the most prominent artists with ties to the area is Jimmie Rodgers, known as the Father of Country Music. DreamSongs, Etc. includes superb renditions of his compositions “Carolina Sunshine Gal” and “Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues,” which fit neatly into the album’s overall vibe.

“I definitely try to channel some Jimmie Rodgers in my approach to songwriting. Simplicity and purpose...every word should count. I will never tire of the diversity of his catalog. It seems like every week I find a song of his I may have overlooked prior that hits me like a ton of bricks,” Truelsen says. “Generally speaking I'm writing from my personal experiences, though I do my best to not make songs feel like they are part of any particular time. I would like to think someone could listen to ‘Finger Pointin' Mama’ and think it was written today, or maybe their Grandma might hear it and think it was written when she was a kid. I hope timelines are blurred and that the music speaks for here and now, and for way back when.”

Learn more at https://billandthebelles.com

Jeffrey Dean Foster

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As with the best songs, Jeffrey Dean Foster’s sort of ambush you, don’t they? You latch onto the melody, all of the visceral stuff sets in, you forget whatever it was you were doing, and totally live within that three minutes. It’s when you realize, later, that it might just be a protest tune you’ve been singing along with that you enter the unpacking phase of the relationship. Is this song about wanting to be right where you are, now, or literally anywhere else? If this music often gets lazily lumped in with folk pop then why is it conjuring up images of David Bowie wearing Jeanne D’Arc’s suit of armor? It owes as much to Schroter’s Valley as it does Laurel Canyon.

Foster has the uncanny ability to write a song that kicks in the door, but then, in no time flat, you invite it to move in. It may be a false start or an unexpected guitar stab that initially gets your attention, but it’s the tenacious choruses, and production easter eggs, that reveal themselves with repeat listens that keep you hanging around.

Most of Foster’s musical heroes are skinny guys with style and songs. He meets the description himself, and while he’s never shied away from giving them the occasional sonic nod, he professes that his ultimate goal is to simply "become the kind of singer I can stand." You might think that’s easy, but ask any artist and they’ll tell you about the struggle. The successful result of that self-imposed directive speaks for itself, though. 

Don Dixon once commented that Foster’s Million Star Hotel is longer than Harvest and Meet The Beatles put together, but it couldn’t have been any shorter, could it? 2014’s The Arrow didn’t clock in at much less, so it’s pretty notable that JDF packed it all in such a compact space with his latest release, the I'm Starting to Bleed EP. 

 Over a rich career, spanning four decades, Jeffrey Dean Foster has slogged it out in the trenches with The Right Profile, The Carneys, and The Pinetops, and been courted by Clive Davis. He's scored an entire Angus MacLachlan film, racked up accolades from all the right magazines, and was labelmates with Whitney Houston. Now, with not much more than a pile of home recording equipment, and a raging case of cabin fever, he has produced an EP that sits proudly amongst his very best work.  —  Alex Maiolo

Learn more at https://www.jeffreydeanfoster.com/home

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