At some point in Ballard’s future, cowboy boots and big belt buckles will go the way of fisherman slickers and cable-knit sweaters. Until then, Ballard burns the home fires for a certain breed of rustic Seattleite and the music they love. Until then, Evening Bell plays the neighborhood’s song.
Led by Hart Kingsbery and Caitlin Sherman, Evening Bell is the most refined expression of Seattle-style Americana: classic country spiked with rock ’n’ roll attitude and darkened by a distinctly nocturnal vibe. Kingsbery and Sherman split vocal duties, dueling each other or backing each other depending on the needs of the song. A swinging rhythm section, with Jason Merculief on drums and Aaron Harmonson on bass, is abetted by eerie pedal steel by Olie Eshleman, plus occasionaly strings for elegance and heft. “Strange Mama,” the first single from their upcoming debut album—called, tellingly, Dying Stars—is quintessential, a story-song that runs on hard liquor and romantic longing, Sherman’s songbird voice roughed up by Kingsbery’s salty rasp.
The musical rapport between Sherman and Kingsbery is undeniable. Unlike Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris or Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Kingsbery and Sherman are romantically involved. The pair met one night a few years ago—Sherman was singing backup for a country band at Conor Byrne while Kingsbery was watching the show.
“I sang a few songs and got off stage and sat down at the bar,” Sherman says. “He sat next to me and said, ‘Where did you come from?’”
“We were in the same scene for years and never knew each other,” says Kingsbery.
That’s Ballard for you. For now, at least.
Evening Bell plays Conor Byrne on April 9.