The crackle of a gramophone, sweeping glissandos on the fiddle, the strum-a-strum of the banjolele, lush old-timey harmonies, wry lyrics, all of these hallmarks for Bill & the Belles point back to the glory days of early American music from the 1920s to the 1940s. This golden age saw artists moving between the rowdy world of vaudeville to the burgeoning new genres of “hillbilly” and “race” records. It was the birth of country, the birth of the blues, the early ideas that still fuel today’s genres like “Americana.” There was a hopefulness and joy to the music, sometimes at odds with the realities of the time, but music was solace to people, and with the coming of commercially available gramophones, a medium driven by revolutionary technology. Bill and the Belles are a lively, exciting live band, but all the fun in their music shouldn’t distract from their vast knowledge of the roots of American music. Lead singer and guitarist Kris Truelsen grew up in Colorado but now makes his home Johnson City, Tennessee where he runs Radio Bristol out of the Birthplace of Country Music museum. Just over the border in Bristol, VA, Kris’ radio station operates out of the city that has long been central to the development of country music. The first early recordings by Ralph Peer in Bristol, way back in 1927, discovered The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and have been called the “big bang of country music.” Bill & the Belles have a deep love for Jimmie Rodgers, covering two of his songs on their most recent album, Dreamsongs, Etc, and they take their name from 1920s Johnston City duo Bill and Belle Reed. But all this love and study of this period of American music means little without performers who can channel the zest of the period, the sense of playfulness and discovery. Truelsen’s a naturally charming character, and he’s found perfect foils in musical partners Kalia Yeagle (fiddle, vocals) and Helena Hunt (banjos, vocals). Hailing from Alaska’s tight knit musical community, Yeagle’s a spectacular fiddler, moving between the antecedents of bluegrass, old-time, country, and blues fiddling. Hunt, a North Carolina native, brings the older styles of banjo to life brilliantly. I may have taken a lot of time to talk about what makes Bill & the Belles so much fun, but it won’t take you long to understand that, I promise.