Belle Plaine
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Belle Plaine

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF | AFM

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2010
Solo Americana Roots

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This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


"Belle Plaine – The Unrequited Love"

Among the trends in independent roots music the past few years has been releasing a live album of brand new songs. It not only offers the artist the opportunity to record with the energy that only a live show can provide, but it gives a wider audience a snapshot of the show they’ll see when the band comes through town. While most artists are content to merely offer up the songs, Belle Plaine takes the concept a little further on The Unrequited Love, releasing the entire show, which showcases her charm as a performer in addition to her strengths as both a songwriter and a vocalist.

There’s a distinctive jazz-folk style to the arrangements on The Unrequited Love, though Plaine’s songwriting also leans slightly country. It’s an interesting juxtaposition hearing country-folk songs backed by smooth street corner saxophones, as on “Swamp Lullaby,” with guitars closer to spacey rockabilly, drenched in reverb and Bigsby flourishes than the usual, more muted jazz guitar style. On “Frozen,” Plaine’s paean to her ailing mother, she wisely opts for sparse instrumentation, just piano and fingerpicked acoustic guitar, with a tasteful upright bass staying well back, bringing the feeling of the lyrics to the fore, gentle harmonies singing, “If I could write a song that would melt this winter, could bring the spring to you in February, I’d sing it long and it would shake the rafters in dark halls, if it would make this better.”

Live albums tend to be energetic affairs, and this is where Plaine’s choice to include between-song introductions and banter takes that energy down a notch. Part of the live album’s mystique is knowing what a band is capable of live, but knowing that you’re not seeing the whole show, much in the same way the Wizard asked Dorothy to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Plaine chooses a few top-notch covers to round out the set, including a sultry take on Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis,” and a brassy, uptempo run at the Ray Price country classic “Crazy Arms.” Having a band of heavy brass and a full complement of tasteful jazz cats at her disposal makes The Unrequited Love a nice listen, and goes a long way to establishing Belle Plaine’s unique sonic blend of country-folk and jazz. - BeatRoute


"Belle Plaine "Crashing Through""

Last summer, we heard country crooners Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund team up to deliver "Town to Town." Now, the fairer, female component of the couple is set to unveil some work of her own with a song called "Crashing Through" — and Exclaim! is here to hook you up with an exclusive first listen.

The track comes from Plaine's upcoming live record The Unrequited Love, which was recorded on Valentine's Day 2015 at the Artesian in Regina, SK, during the tour of the same name. The singer was joined on stage by a full band composed of Jeremy Sauer, Elizabeth Curry, Chris Sleightholm, Tyler Hammer, Cheney Lambert, Karl Valiaho and Anna Rose.

"Crashing Through" is just a sampling of how the musicians sound when they fill the stage, weaving together elements of folk, country and jazz into a unique and totally captivating combination. Putting a twangy twist on traditional genres, Plaine and her crew are sure to win listeners over with their refreshing approach to an eclectic array of musical styles.

The Unrequited Love is due out on March 4, but you can listen to "Crashing Through" right now in the player below. Scroll past Plaine's upcoming tour dates to give it a spin.

Tour dates:

03/03 Winnipeg, MB – The Park Theatre
03/04 Saskatoon, SK – The Bassment
03/05 Regina, SK – The Artesian - Exclaim


"Belle Plaine & Blake Berglund "Town to Town" (video)"

Saskatchewan sweethearts Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund have teamed up to release a 7-inch single paying homage to their fellow songwriter Zachary Lucky, but before it officially arrives next month, Exclaim! has got the premiere of the prairie pair's video for "Town to Town."

The single's A-side, "Town to Town" was originally penned by Lucky and will be joined on the flip side by Lucky's home province tribute "Saskatchewan." Filling out the duo's sound on the new single are Plaine's regular backers Jeremy Sauer on keys and Elizabeth Curry on bass, as well as Berglund's go-to guys Steve Leidal on drums and Bryce Lewis on electric guitar. The result is a twangy ode to the musicians' country home that celebrates the musical community that they're a part of.

"It was an opportunity to unite our bands, to draw attention Zachary's music, and to create a recording that celebrated the talent within our province," said Plaine in a press release. "I wanted the songs to resonate locally first, and then to bring a spotlight to the exceptional artists that live here."

Plaine and Berglund will be on the road together into autumn, and you can see their upcoming dates listed below. Their final show at Regina's The Artesian will even feature a special appearance from Lucky himself.

For now, though, you can scroll past the list of shows check out the brand new video for "Town to Town" in the player below.

The limited edition, gold-toned "Town to Town"/"Saskatchewan" 7-inch is officially out on September 4.

Tour dates:

09/2 Saskatoon,SK - Village Guitar & Amp
09/4 Edmonton, AB - The Blue Chair
09/5 Jasper, AB - The Jasper Legion
09/6 Usona, AB - House Concert
09/7 Red Deer, AB - Fratters Speakeasy
09/8 Calgary, AB - Wine-Ohs
09/9 Revelstoke, BC - Mustang Bed & Breakfast
09/10 Salmon Arm, BC - R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum Fundraiser
09/11 Sicamous, BC - Owl Head Creek Bed & Breakfast
09/12 Penticton, BC - The Dream Café
09/13 Vancouver, BC - The Railway Club
09/15 Vancouver, BC - Private Performance
09/18 Victoria, BC - BreakOut West Showcases
09/19 Victoria, BC - BreakOut West Showcases
09/24 Duchess, AB - Red Roof Studio
09/25 Maple Creek, SK - Spring Valley Guest Ranch
09/27 Regina, SK - The Artesian *

* with Zachary Lucky - Exclaim


"Belle Plaine brings the prairie to town"

Saskatchewan trio Belle Plaine is nothing if not versatile.

On a downpouring Sunday afternoon, the group has set up shop between the crowded aisles of Taz Records for a cozy in-store performance. Between their intimate original tunes, singer Melanie Hankewich—who also answers to Belle Plaine as a stage name—takes note of the albums and music ephemera that grace the walls.

There’s a Jerry Lee Lewis box set, how about a cover of Crazy Arms? Or a Record Store Day poster of Tom Waits “looking kind of creepy” that prompts Belle Plaine to pull out a song from his album Frank’s Wild Years.

It feels like Hankewich, standup bassist Elizabeth Curry and keyboardist Jeremy Sauer are playing these songs as much for their own enjoyment as the music lovers taking shelter from the storm outside, but it all works together in the jazzy, folky, honky tonky realm of Belle Plaine, where no song seems too sacred for Hankewich’s honeyed voice and the band’s broad taste.

“We do jump around, but I love that,” says the singer, who grew up on a farm two-and-a-half hours due east of Saskatoon. “When we get people out and they’re hearing it, it’s a great way to keep them interested. It doesn’t become a wash of train beats for the whole set.

“When we’re live, we connect it to storytelling; it’s about creating all of those emotions in listeners. We want the performance to resonated with them. We do things that are light, that you can enjoy and tap your toe to, but we also talk a lot about things like death in the family, which can get kind of heavy, but you can approach an audience and have them relate to that and have it be really meaningful.”

Belle Plaine’s latest album Notes From a Waitress draws from real life, with a title track inspired by her days of slinging java and hopping tables while living in Sydney, Australia for year. She’d done some performing while studying in Victoria, B.C., prompted in part by that city’s queen of country Carolyn Mark, but took it to another level after her sojourn across the Pacific.

“I would sing behind the coffee machine at the cafe I worked at, and people would hear me — co-workers and customers — and a future boyfriend decided that we should start a band together,” recalls Hankewich.

“I started writing a bit to impress the band members.”

After her work visa was up, she moved from Australia back to Saskatchewan, getting acclimatized from living in a city with 4.5 million people to Regina’s 200,000.

Future boyfriend soon became an ex when he failed to follow, and Hankewich teamed up with keyboardist friend Sauer, and they soon began writing together while working behind the scenes at a local theatre.

Working as a lighting technician, her old habit continued as she sang to herself in the tech booth and up on the catwalk, where she was overheard by Halifax lighting designer Leigh Ann Vardy, among others.

“She was one of the many lighting designers who said, ‘Do you have a radio on in there, could you shut it off?’ And I’d tell them I was singing, and they’d say, ‘That’s you? Why are you in a booth? You should NOT be in a booth!’,” she says with a laugh.

“So there was a lot of encouragement from people in that community for me to get out of that community and do something they felt was more appropriate to my talent.”

Now Belle Plaine is touring in advance of a new live album, recorded with an expanded lineup, due out later this summer. Hankewich plans to follow up soon on this month’s 22-date Maritime tour which includes shows in art galleries, cafes and bakeries as well as traditional live venues.

“It’s all from just reaching out to people. You folks still pick up the phone here, it’s something you have in common with the Prairies,” she grins. “I did a lot of prior research into the communities that I was calling, to the point where I knew what boards people were on, who they were friends with.

“But when I called, we could have a genuine conversation, and I could understand what they were offering and how we could fall in line with their priorities in the community and build something together. That’s more interesting to me than turning up and being a one-off and never seeing them again. I love this part of the world, it can be a bit of a battle to stay in a land-locked province.” - Chronicle Herald


Discography

Last Mountain Lake [Belle Plaine] (TBC)

Guest on Realms [Blake Berglund] (TBC) 

The Unrequited Love [Belle Plaine] (March 2016)

Town to Town/Saskatchewan
[Belle Plaine & Blake Berglund] (September 2015)

Guest on Imaginary Appalachia [Colter Wall] (July 2015)

Sunset Sessions
[Belle Plaine & The Lazy MKs] (May 2012)

Notes from a Waitress
[Belle Plaine] (January 2012)

Guest on Where We Bin [The Lazy MKs] (May 2011)

Hello from Belle Plaine
[Belle Plaine] (May 2011)

Photos

Bio

Belle Plaine is a national treasure - a true Canadian. She can sing like a hot-damn, was ready to leave on tour at a moment's notice and shot the shit out of a spoon with a BB gun from the 50 yard mark. - Carolyn Mark


Belle Plaine is a singer, a songwriter and an inventive musician who was raised on the Canadian prairies near the hamlet of Fosston, Saskatchewan – population: 54. The ingenuity, lonesome yearning and collaborative work ethic of country life have infiltrated her songwriting, her sound and her methods. Belle’s reverence for artists who defy categorization has led her to create a brand of roots music that combines vintage blues and swing tones of the 1940s with classic country styles made popular in the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry. Belle’s greatest strength is an unfailing ability to weave stories, genres and emotions with her formidable voice.  

Twangy early influences from the family AM Radio mixed with a dozen years of classical voice training throughout Belle’s upbringing led her into studying contemporary music in college. When Belle started performing full-time, she paired her voice with instinctive songwriting and a tinder-dry wit, and that provided all the fuel required to make hearts smoulder.

The prairie songstress’s most recent release, The Unrequited Love (2016), is a live concert recording. It introduces unseasoned listeners to Belle’s musical versatility and onstage charm, as well as the revolving cast of talented friends who tastefully embellish her ideas with backup vocals, keyboards, upright bass, drums, electric guitar, brass and accordion. The album mixes her original songs with a little Bessie Smith, a little Tom Waits, and some Kristofferson for good measure. Belle's greatest joy is performing for an audience, and she's made that joy audible on The Unrequited Love.

Belle’s chameleon abilities have become a catalyst for an impressive array of collaborations. In 2015 she appeared as a guest vocalist on Colter Wall’s breakthrough debut album, Imaginary Appalachia. In 2016 she performed her work with the Regina Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 her co-writing and harmony-singing chops will be featured on Blake Berglund’s upcoming album, Realms. Throughout all of her projects, Belle also works closely with Saskatchewan artists in other fields, including visual arts and dance.  

Belle Plaine has built a loyal following that continues to flourish. She has been rewarded with festival spots such as at Small Halls on Prince Edward Island and Regina Folk Festival in Saskatchewan, and appearances at industry events like Folk Alliance International and JUNOfest. Evidenced by the long-standing support of industry stalwarts like CKUA Alberta, to a recent nod from CBC’s q with Tom Powers, Belle is proving her entrepreneurial spirit with multiple releases and cross-country tours under her belt – making it clear that she is a career musician who relishes sharing her voice, and her songs, with the world.

"Belle Plaine has the voice of an angel and the on stage presence of a seasoned professional. When she opens her mouth the audience stops their chattering to listen - works every time. I would highly recommend her as a superb addition to any lineup or concert series." - Sandra Butel, Artistic Director of the Regina Folk Festival

"Her voice sounds timeless, somehow equally sultry, seductive, fragile, and dusky while still capable of room-filling bombast when the moment calls for it. One gets the sense that she could sing anything...It’s not so much that her voice changes in any way to suit those styles, more that she has the strength, control, and natural tone to make it almost universal in its application." - Sound Salvation Army


"Belle Plaine is a throwback to a better time, from her singing style to her stage performance. She is engaging, talented, professional (not to mention gorgeous: she's a tomato!) - and has the singing chops to back it all up." - Carle Steel, prairie dog magazine



Band Members