Songs from the golden era of early country radio to be performed at center

Bill and the Belles

Bill and the Belles will bring their old-time country vaudeville repertoire to the Blue Ridge Music Center on Saturday, August 29.

Dori Freeman will open the show at 7 p.m., in the outdoor amphitheater at the base of Fisher Peak. The Music Center is located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Bill and the Belles bring an uplifting show full of humor, high spirits, and all-around revelry to the stage. With a sound that falls somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville, the band 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. “But we don’t have a desire to copy it. We want to sound like ourselves and tell our story.”

While Truelsen’s distinctive tenor anchors their sound, the Tennessee-based band’s trio harmonies gleam against a backdrop of banjo, fiddle, accordion, ukulele, and bass.

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 said, “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.

Bill and the Belles are the host of the popular weekly Radio Bristol and PBS Television show “Farm and Fun Time,” an old time radio variety show that features guest musicians and bands playing a variety of roots music including: bluegrass, blues, gospel, jazz and Americana.

In addition to Truelsen (guitar and vocals), members are Kalia Yeagle (fiddle and vocals), Helena Hunt (banjo and vocals), and Andrew Small (bass).

Dori Freeman (Contributed photos)

Freeman, a singer-songwriter and Galax native, grew up in a musical family. Her father, Scott Freeman, and grandfather, Willard Gayheart, are both regular performers during Midday Mountain Music sessions at the Music Center. With her expressive vocals and poignant songwriting, Freeman’s songs tell the stories of heartache and struggle. She released her eponymous album produced by Teddy Thompson on Free Dirt Records in 2016. Following that release, Rolling Stone included her on the magazine’s list of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.” Freeman recently released her third album, Every Single Star, also produced by Thompson.

Tickets are available at the door the night of the show for $15. Purchases by credit card are encouraged. Children 12 and younger admitted for free.

Tickets purchased in advance for any of the 2020 Blue Ridge Music Center concerts canceled earlier this year will be accepted for admission.

Parking is free.

Concessions will be available.

The socially distanced concert will be held in the Blue Ridge Music Center’s outdoor amphitheater. The center is taking several precautions during concerts to make the experience as safe as possible for visitors. Those who have a fever, cough, aches and pains, loss of smell or taste, difficulty breathing, or are sneezing and coughing, are asked to please stay at home.

Concert attendees also must follow these guidelines:

Maintain six feet of distance between groups throughout the evening, including when standing in line and selecting seating locations in the amphitheater.

When in high traffic areas, concertgoers must wear a mask to protect others.

A hand sanitizing station will be set up near the admission gate. Added precautions may slow entry to the amphitheater, so arriving early is encouraged.

For more information, visit BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org or call (866) 308-2773, ext. 212.

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