Special Pre-Super Bowl Party
By David McIntyre
Don’t be mistaken by the name, this band is no joke; they are very serious about their music. This band from Lansing has been together for about two years, after a chance encounter at an open stage between founders Lindsay Lou and Josh Rilko. Her background was in pop and
classical music, while his was in bluegrass. Josh, on mandolin, was already part of a traditional bluegrass band called The Flatbellys. He says he and his band mates converted Lindsay over to the ways of bluegrass music. Now, the two are married and she is fronting the group with Keith Billik on banjo, Spencer Cain on bass, and Mark Leventahl on resonator guitar.
Distinct vocals, tight harmonies, instrumental expertise, and creative arrangements are all essential characteristics of their unique sound. Instrumentally, they can turn on a dime, their arrangements showing a well-developed taste in music based on bluegrass traditions, but frequently dipping into swing jazz and popular song-craft, their sound is deftly guided by the clarion vocals of lead singer Lindsay Lou.
Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys’ latest CD release, “Your Shrouds,” marks a bold step forward (thanks in part to the relationship between Lindsay Lou and Joshua Rilko, which blossomed with their recent marriage). Joshua plays mandolin and blends his voice with Lindsay’s in beautiful harmony on the new album, which is a window to a bluegrass band spreading its wings and incorporating new influences into their sound. On “Wonderful You Are,” bass player Spencer Cain shines in a duet with Lindsay’s Billie-Holiday-like vocals, and dobro player Mark Levengood brings the fire on “Lemon Squeezy.” Keith Billick’s banjo playing not only offers the driving bluegrass sound, but also brings a level of sophistication to the less traditional numbers like the instrumental track, “Barbarossa.” My personal favorite is “My Side of the Mountain,” with great harmony, vocals, and some fine mandolin and dobro interplay with great lyrics.
Rarely do you find a band that combines musicianship, song writing, and vocals without sacrificing a thing, but Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys nail it. You wouldn’t expect such an incredible, classic sound to come from these young musicians, but it’s clear that they have studied musical styles that came long before their time. Now with an energy and vigor that permeates each note and the ability to get audiences movin’ and groovin’ everywhere they go, they’re found their niche with an old sound in a new generation.
Lindsay Lou’s lyrics and vocals bring a powerful quality to some timeless traditional American music. Her writing style closely matches the different mix of genres while maintaining a uniqueness that’s a breath of fresh air in today’s music. Her clever, moving lyrics lure in crowds of all ages, and she speaks from the heart with a genuineness that’s so approachable, you’ll feel like old friends after a single listen.
I feel very lucky to be able to get this band into Oskar Blues - Lyons on Sunday, February 3, for an all-ages free show. We will do this show from 4 to 7 p.m., just before the Super Bowl. So take advantage of this free show by packing the place and supporting this fabulous band. You will be glad you did, and I can guarantee this one without any reservations, this band is headed straight to the top.