Tele Novella – Merlynn Belle: Album Review

Tele Novella presents Cowboys and Broadway – with a psychedelic twist!

Release Date:  5th February 2021

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Formats: CD, Vinyl (black and green options), Streaming, Download

Now here’s something completely different to put some sparkle in any jaded ears and to add some life to yet another afternoon of lockdown isolation.  You might not have come across Tele Novella before.  If you haven’t, then I can tell you that they’re a duo from Lockhart, Texas comprising singer/songwriter Natalie Ribbons and multi-instrumentalist  Jason Chronis. Merlynn Belle is their second album, their first from this current line-up.  But those basic facts don’t go anywhere near preparing you for the delights in store when you slip Merlynn Belle onto your turntable.

Natalie and Jason have suggested that, on Merlynn Belle, they have “Captured the music they wanted to make all along but didn’t know until it happened accidentally.”  They’ve also said (and I found this particularly helpful once I’d started to listen to the album) that “Merlynn Belle is a homespun creative bricolage that pulls from influences as diverse as cowboy troubadours and folk baroque to tell stories that are at once cinematic and deeply personal. 

And that just about nails it. Merlynn Belle is almost certainly something very different to anything you’ve ever heard before. It’s a collection of ten short songs, every one of which is, to a greater or lesser degree, poppy, lightly psychedelic, highly quirky and thoroughly enjoyable.  There are liberal sprinklings of country, even a few snatches of what could pass for show tunes and lots of humour, all wrapped in a package of simple yet highly competent instrumentation.  The songs are wordy – this is definitely an album for the lyric lovers amongst us – and Natalie’s delivery is remarkable as she uses her versatile voice to marvelous effect throughout the album.  As I listened, I tried to detect any influences that are evident; The Incredible String Band, Suzanne Vega and The Waitresses all seemed to be hidden in there somewhere, but really, this album is the work of Tele Novella alone.

Four tracks have already been chosen for release as singles, and those choices have been made wisely.  Technicolor Town (released in October 2020), Words That Stay (November 2020), Never (December 2020) and current single Paper Crown are all album highlights and are well worth chasing down but they are by no means the only reasons for you to hear this album.  It Won’t Be Long is a gorgeous mix of pop, country and Broadway musical; One Little Pearl tells a fascinating account of the trauma of dealing with the belongings of a departed loved one, A Lot To Want recalls the psychedelic explorations of Country Joe And The Fish and Desiree, a song laden with fingerpicked guitar, chimes, Farfisa and a rambling stream-of-consciousness lyric takes the listener right back to the halcyon days of 1968.

But, as I’ve already hinted, the jewel in this particular crown can be found in the lyrics, and it’s those lyrics that will make you want to play this album over and over.  By way of example, the wonderfully whimsical Paper Crown contains lines like “I want to be the secret you can’t help but tell – oh let me be the penny in the wishing well” and the magical, mystical Crystal Witch opens with the words “With a cape and a cold eye, she only eats crystal, but how she sings when a finger rings her mouth.”  And believe me, there’s a whole lot more where those gems came from!

I’ve just heard an album that has brightened up my day and I’m sure that Merlynn Belle can do the same for you. Please do give it a try!

Treat yourself to the official video for Paper Crown, the current single from the album, here:

Tele Novella Online: Website/ Facebook/ Instagram/ YouTube / Twitter

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