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Brighton, England, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Brighton, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Blues




"Keep Your Belly full of Blues"

We’re really no more certain of how UK contemporary blues band TBelly came up with their name than we are of Lead Belly’s, but we have to admit that we like what we’ve heard from them so far in their debut album Dead Men Don’t Pray (Cabin Music/ECR Music Group). While some blues fans might be tempted to dismiss the band upon learning that three of its five members formerly played in Les McKeown’s Scottish bubblegum pop group The Bay City Rollers (“Saturday Night”, “Be My Baby”, “I Only Want to Be With You”, “Bye Bye Baby”), we can assure you that the band’s sound is much deeper and more contemporary than you might at first imagine, with songs like “Mr TBelly Blues” and “I Want to Be With You” venturing well into heavy blues territory. Indeed, these guys are a whole lot closer to the likes of Moreland & Arbuckle, Johnny Sansone, or the Stephen Stills/Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Barry Goldberg supergroup The Rides – although perhaps slightly more polished and diverse even than any of these – than they are the band some of its members formerly called home.

Led by Russell Keefe on vocals and keyboards, along with fellow former Rollers Ross Lardner on lead guitar and Kevin Magill on drums, TBelly also includes bass player Riad Abji and backing singer Debs Bonomini, joined by guest harmonica player Al Richardson on several of the 11 original songs.

With deep, gritty – often croaking – vocals that range from the likes of Tom Waits to Joe Cocker and Eric Burdon to Louis Armstrong, Keefe has every bit the voice to match his strong playing on keyboards, displaying an impressive versatility in delivering tracks like the rocking numbers noted above to the jazzy, horn-accented “Night at the Ritz” and such soulful ballads as the sensitive acoustic closer “Broken” and soft, bluesy “I’ll Get You Home”.

Along the way, you’ll also hear the catchy, driving “Tie It on My Face”, with its “Wild, Wild West” (The Escape Club)-like rhythm and some ripping guitar from Lardner; the creeping, New Orleans-flavored “Lie in the Desert”, and a pleading, powerful “Best Out of You” that adds some subtle yet effective strings – particularly when they’re leading into another fine solo from Lardner. “Respectable Man” sounds like something Eric Burdon could easily have recorded, with hard-rocking grooves and some especially gritty harmonica from Richardson, who also contributes on the swaggering title track, while Bonomini’s background vocals go a long way in helping to balance Lardner’s stinging guitar and Keefe’s scratchy vocals on the simmering “Where’s the Doctor”.

Dead Men Don’t Pray makes for a solid debut from a surprisingly tight and well-rounded band, with Keefe’s lyrics representing yet another area of excellence, including such lines as “this is the way to combat social disease/ the lack of contact comes to me with such ease/ I miss the times you really pushed me around/ I want to lie in the desert with you”; “I have an automobile, it has an expensive feel/ I eat in all the right places, but I don’t get fulfilled/ but all I want from you is a night at the Ritz”; “well you made a fool of me, and you did it very well/ you took my heart and you crushed it like a very, very small eggshell/ your mind is a sewer and it runs very deep/ well you cut me up, and dumped me in a trunk, and you threw away the key” (“Where’s the Doctor”); and “I’ve been by the wayside/ I’ve been in despair/ I need a drink in the morning/ just to get me through the day/ I once was a proud man/ and I think I still am/ but the streets have a habit/ and the habit won’t go away” (“Broken”).

Once you’ve heard TBelly, chances are they too will be a habit that won’t go away; fortunately those in the U.S. will have the chance to hear more of them when the band tours the states starting in July, with appearances scheduled for New York City, D.C./Maryland/Virginia, Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, and hopefully more. If their live show is anything like that of this stellar debut, TBelly just may be the “must-see” blues act of the year. - BluesPowr Blog

"UK contemporary blues band TBelly new album release "Dead Men Don't Pray""

Marty's review: If it's blues with raunch and punch you're after, then have a close listen to TBelly's debut album "Dead Men Don't Pray". From Russell Keefe's raspy, "Tom Waits" style vocals, scorching guitar licks, pounding piano, ultra-tight rhythm and all the other elements you would expect from a hot blues band, this album doesn't disappoint with every track a standout that will leave you breathless. - The Blues and Roots Music blog


Sometimes a new band comes along and you wonder where they’ve been all these years. With superb rock-tinged guitar, funky piano and sleazy Blues harp, T-Belly make some fine music, but it is their vocal performance that grabs the ear and engages the spirit. Blues songs can compress deep and complex feelings into a few lines, but when they are projected with this kind of power and conviction, they can also open a door into a world of shared experience. - All About Blues Music

"TBelly Cover story"

cover story - Blues In Britain

"TBelly - Dead Men Don't Pray"

It's pretty hard not to mention that TBelly's frontman Russell Keefe was a member of Scottish pop legends Bay City Rollers. However, that's not all that Tbelly has going for them. With an esteemed collection of musicians with strong backgrounds, this first album puts Keefe's giant, growling vocals up against an eclectic and unique brand of blues-rock meets R&B that's difficult not to enjoy. bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

The album starts out with "Tie It On My Face," where Keefe's coarse pipes are met with strong percussion, smooth female backing vocals, and most importantly, addictive guitar work. "Lie In The Desert" follows and takes a slower pace where keys and a more R&B angle are put to use. Though the use of female voices to support Keefe's far from polished vocals might seem like mixing oil and water, it works exceptionally well, and represents the album's dichotomy between rugged rock and silky smooth dynamics. The title track takes yet another twist where the sparse finger snapping builds into a layered, cultured hybrid of timeless blues. Rounding out the first half of the album are "Best Out Of You," a more subdued approach for the band, and "Respectable Man," a louder rocker where TBelly approaches garage rock and Keefe shows an impressive range.

The second half of the album is even better than the first, featuring disc highlight "Mr TBelly Blues," a reckless tune where wild keys and loud guitars join into a blues-filled explosion of melody and precision. "Night At The Ritz" follows and brings in a calm atmosphere and moody guitar work, before the gritty, piano driven “Where's The Doctor.” As the album nears the end, the vocals seem to get coarser and the atmospheres become geared towards late night contemplation, as exemplified by the organ heavy rocker “I Want To Be With You” and the sparse acoustic closer “Broken.”

If you have an ear for the blues, you can't go wrong here. And if gravelly singing à la Joe Cocker or Tom Waits is your cup of tea, even better. - The Daily Vault



TBelly - 4 track EP


Dead Men Don't Pray - Debut Album



You instantly believe Russell Keefe when he says this. The words spoken by a man who’s  voice is reminiscent of Tom Waits and Joe Cocker. The warm broad smile that follows reassures you that he knows the world enough to know what he’s talking about.

The Manchester-born founder and lead singer of TBelly has a distinguished career in music to rest his laurels on but he’s clearly focused more on what’s ahead of him and his new-found band than he is on what’s
behind him.

As a member of Les McKeown’s legendary Bay City Rollers, Keefe (as well as bandmates Kevin Magill and Ross Lardner) toured the world and recorded multiple studio and live records, furthering the iconic band’s worldwide success. But it was a batch of new songs that Keefe says fuelled this new direction. “I started writing the songs a year or so ago and this blues style just came out. It suited my voice and it suited the type of songs I was writing. But there are other elements in the songs and in the band too. TBelly certainly has its roots in the blues but it’s very much a contemporary sound that we bring.”

About his songwriting process Keefe adds “Only two of the songs on this album have come from me deliberately sitting down at my piano and writing songs, the rest have come in various ways walking to the pub or inspired by noticing the people I come across in everyday life. One evening I was walking through town and saw this old guy who had clearly been drinking a little dancing a waltz with himself. That influenced the song “Night at the Ritz.” So sometimes I’d get an idea or hear a melody in my head and over time it would evolve into the songs you hear on the album.”

Bass player Riad Abji and backing singer Debs Bonomini fill out the band’s roster. Al Richardson is also added to the list. Al is one of the foremost Harmonica players in England and has played with many artists both live and in the studio and is much sought after. TBelly are very fortunate to have secured his services for our album and forthcoming tour of the USA.

Al’s Harp playing complements the other fantastic musicians that played with the band on the 11 songs that make up TBelly’s forthcoming debut album Dead Men Don’t Pray. 

“We set up drums, we set up amps, we set up mics and we played as a band just like you’re supposed to” says Keefe. “That’s the energy that’s on this record, people playing together and having a blast.

Band Members