Josie Bello Have Purpose Live Long JosieBello.com
Troubadours come and go, drifting into town and—after a couple or three gigs—quietly moving on to the next stool or stage. Some we hear from again, and others remain a dim if warm memory of an evening well-spent.
Josie Bello is from New York and resides (I’ve learned) on Long Island, so the chance of her making an appearance in my part of the world is slim. I most likely won’t have the opportunity to experience her music live—the preferred format for introspective, folk musings—so her fine second album will have to do. And it does.
Concise at eight original numbers, Have Purpose Live Long contains significant insights and pleasing melodies; what more could we desire from folk music?
Bello’s deep, resonant voice carries her melodies with presence and poise. Vocally, she reminds me quite a lot of Kate Campbell and coming from me, that is no small compliment. Her music and lyrics also remind me of Campbell, ‘personally universal’ being the term I coined some time ago to describe one of Campbell’s song collections.
“After all these years I still don’t believe I am the only one of us who grieves,” she sings quite deliberately in the album’s closing number, “Hole In My Life.” Ruminating on a love lost, Bello appears entirely convinced that given a second chance, things would be different. Would it? I’m not as confident, but I can feel myself pulled into her certainty. “Party With the Saints” especially reminds me of Campell—cheeky, autonomous, and fierce.
“I want to live honest, I want to be grateful. I want to have peace, and I want to be strong. I want to have purpose, and I want to live long” are the words that open the album, and taking them as a thesis statement, one believes Bello is succeeding. With her songs, including “I Bleed Human,” “All It Takes Is Time,” and “Twenty-Five Years,” she is most likely singing to the converted, but that’s alright: we need flag bearers to chart our course, individually, socially, and politically.
Two particularly sagacious songs have been included, each distinct in mood, tone, and subject.
“Sing the blues, lighten your load, why it works, no one knows” is one of several simple, crystalline insights contained within “Mafic of the Music. The ability for the saddest music to serve as therapy—over and over again—is one of the more significant reasons why we (I trust) return to our favourite mood music.
“Not the America of My Dreams” is timely, a very specific story-song about a family escaping violence and poverty to find the dream of America’s hope long displaced by something much darker and insular. Richie Guerrero’s inimitably placed percussion adds to the song’s poignancy.
Bello provides key and a bit of accordion with Mike Nugent carrying the instrumental load—guitars, bass, banjo, and ukulele—while also producing the album. Shawn Murray provides astute drumming on a selection of songs, with Ian Petillo and Jonathan Mele appearing elsewhere; the drumming throughout is really nice, never overwhelming the rhythms and complementary instrumentation. Tom Fraioli’s fiddling further enlivens “Party With the Saints.”
Troubadours come and go, and time will tell Josie Bello’s fate. I’m hopeful that we will continue to hear from her. She has good stuff to share; I believe we owe it to her to give a listen.