When I first heard Bella White, I was in my car driving home, and the title track to her debut album, Just Like Leaving, came up as a suggestion. The road was a long black ribbon of monotony, and a man can only listen to his playlist so many times before seeking additional material, so I pressed play.
From the opening chords, “Just Like Leaving” builds into one of the most beautiful Appalachian ballads of the last decade. The phrasing and longing of White's voice felt like something crawling out of a misty holler. But here's the catch: White is not from Appalachia. The 22-year-old hails from Calgary, just about as far from her subject matter as possible.
White's affinity for bluegrass-tinged melodies comes from her father, who grew up in Virginia and played in bluegrass bands. She effortlessly channels this influence into her music, creating a timeless record that resonates with the spirit of the mountains. The entire album sounds like something from a bygone era when music was pure and not tainted by copycat corporate garbage.
Fast forward to 2023, and White has unleashed Among Other Things, a blend of sparse ballads and country rockers, revealing influences far beyond the melancholy ballads of Just Like Leaving. Listening, one instantly hears echoes of Gram Parsons' Grievous Angel and early Whiskeytown, infusing her music with classic rock and '70s country.
As we find ourselves immersed in a neo-folk/bluegrass renaissance, where countless artists are trying to ride the coattails of Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, White emerges as a leader for the next generation of female artists. Her ability to blend genres and infuse classic rock into folk and bluegrass sets her apart. Give her a listen. Go see her. Buy a damn shirt. Then, wear that bastard to church and testify.
Among Other Things
Rounder Records 2023
Standout Track: Rhododendron
Dan Russell is a writer. His work has appeared in The Arkansas Review, Cowboy Jamboree, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Tributary, Close to the Bone, and You Might Need to Hear This. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Concordia University-St. Paul.