In 1997, following a spell as a duo, vocalist-songwriters, Eric Luoma and Jimmy Peterson (guitar / lead guitar respectively), augmented Bellwether’s line-up with the addition of bass player Phil Tippin and drummer John Crist. Following Crist’s departure in 1999, Michael Wirtz joined as his replacement.

Bellwether’s debut, ‘Turnstiles’ first saw the light of day in the summer of 1998. Tightly played, the music contained therein is a lot less bleak than the album’s cover, a sepia-tinted shot of a lone barbed wire-flanked turnstile amidst a desolate rural landscape, might suggest.

Musically ‘Turnstiles’ is more than competent country rock fare, with the requisite harmonies and twang quotient the genre demands all present and correct. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable record, although arguably a little too reminiscent at times of their fellow Twin Cities based cohorts, the Jayhawks, tellingly a band that Bellwether have supported in the past. The Jayhawks though have unquestionably been one of the leading lights of the alt. Country / Americana, call it what you will, genre these past ten or more years, so it’s perhaps not surprising the degree of influence that the band have exerted, particularly on bands from the same city. If failing to transcend your influences were a crime we wouldn’t have many albums to write about each month. ‘Turnstiles’ was a solid debut despite its lack of originality and ‘Laurentian Divide’ especially is as majestic as its title suggests.

Bellwether’s second self-titled album followed in 2000 and was a much fuller sounding affair than it s predecessor. Obviously not lacking a sense of humour the band admitted at the time that producer Ed Ackerson had “ a very impressive studio with a lot of knobs and electrical devices so we took advantage of what the knobs had to offer.”

Whilst not necessarily making any remarkably different departures from their earlier material, the resulting ‘Bellwether’ is nevertheless a much more accomplished effort than the band’s debut and finds the band beginning to find its stride. However, contrary to “a leader who is followed blindly” as Bellwether is actually defined, the band had still yet on this to genuinely find an identifiable sound truly of its own. That said, however, there were hints that that the band possibly had the potential to break away from the pack of followers and perhaps start snapping at the heels of the more recognised practitioners of the genre.

Released earlier this year, ‘Home Late’ the band’s third album is undoubtedly their most distinctive release to date. Electing for a noticeable move away from the somewhat rockier alt. country leanings of much of their previous material, ‘Home Late’ is a much simpler album both in style and execution, its affecting songs based primarily around acoustic instrumentation and comparatively sparse uncomplicated arrangements. The intimacy of the recording reveals Bellwether breaking free of the shackles of a band previously overburdened by the influence of its contemporaries. Bellwether’s back to basics approach on ‘Home Late’ is a revelatory departure and they have never sounded better than they do here. The music and performances, though simple and understated, subtly enrapture you with their undeniable warmth and integrity.

Featuring guest turns from Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Calexico, Richard Buckner) on pedal steel and Mike ‘Razz’ Russell (Joe Henry, The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers) on fiddle amongst others, the pedigree of this project cannot be understated. ‘Home Late' is an unassuming juggernaut of an album that should see Bellwether making a deserved surge towards the head of the flock.




































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