On August 5th, The Southern Belles will release their third studio album, titled In The Middle Of The Night. The Southern Belles are Adrian Ciucci (guitar/vocals), Tommy Booker (keys/vocals), Aaron Zarrow (drums/vocals) and Michael Sallemi (bass/vocals). The band hales from Richmond, Virginia, and has amassed a considerable fan base through extensive touring and energetic live shows. The group is at its heart a southern rock band with a strong flair for the psychedelic, and the album’s six expansive tracks pull from a wide variety of genres. The spectrum of influences featured on In The Middle Of The Night is impressive, as the band segues effortlessly between wildly different influences.
Everywhere, the first track on the album, begins with a decidedly southern-psychedelic guitar lick, as if to emphasize the sonic basis from which the group launches its wild improvisations. The song features themes of nautical travel, freedom, and exploration, which seem to recur several times throughout the album. Part way through the track, the Belles descend into a breakdown that features a head-banging, progressive metal groove. I certainly wasn’t expecting this rather dark tone from the band, and was delighted to hear this type of innovation and exploration on the very first track.
Deja Vu features a slow, rolling riff with heavy prog rock influences. The vocal harmonies on this song evoke a dreamlike trance, and once again the lyrics deal with escape and travel. There is an exultant soaring guitar solo to end the tune, which would provide a great launching point for improvisation in a live setting. L.A. Moves, the first single from the album, features a drifting lullaby of an intro, which quickly snaps into a thrumming psychedelic groove. The tempo rises and falls through the song, oscillating between relaxing valleys and gently soaring peaks. This song has been in the Belles’ live rotation for years, and it truly feels practiced and explored, as if they have condensed snapshots of their best live jams into a definitive studio cut.
Tryin is at times more sonically dense than some of the other songs on the album, and once again features themes of journey, both physical and introspective. Everywhere II begins with ambient sounds of waves lapping against the shore, which melts into floating guitar and otherworldly chimes. The soundscape presented here gives the listener a sensation of standing on a ship adrift on a vast ocean, the lyrics reinforcing the concept of prizing the journey above the destination.
In The Middle Of The Night is a great offering for those who appreciate improvisation and diverse musical tapestries. The Southern Belles have woven together a wide swath of genres in a manner that is not jarring or disjointed. Instead, the variety of tones and influences helps to reinforce the album’s themes of travel and exploration, moving the listener deftly between musical realms.