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Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys get ready for more miles

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., March 18, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Lindsay Lou told the crowd that two years ago, the band she fronts, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, knocked off 190 shows. Last year, they were tailed off to 150.

Don't therefore assume things are not going well for the bluegrass-based roots quartet, now based on Nashville after three of them moved there in January. The group released their sophomore effort, "Ionia," in mid-February, and it's a keeper.

Lindsay Lou and her three compadres are not afraid of the road this year either as they're venturing far from home for a Northeast run before later hitting a festival in Scotland,a return trip there for a series of shows and with firm intentions of touring throughout the U.S.

Bluegrass is part and parcel of their underpinning. In a previous life and before joining with Lindsay Lou, the Flatbellys were a straight up traditional bluegrass band.

The bluegrass sound of Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys is defined by the instrumentation with Josh Rilko's mandolin and banjo, PJ George III's upright bass (the big bearded George was the lone member who already was living in Music City) and the Dobro of Mark Livergood (he and George occasionally beat on a cajon as well). George provided the bottom and stability to the sonics, but it was Rilko and Livergood who led the surges and flows of the songs. Not to mention often three-part harmonies (Livergood sat them out, playing to the side) around a single mic.

The four were not wedded to their instruments. Lindsay Lou was often on acoustic, while handling banjo a few times. Other members switched up their instrument of choice with other band members depending on the song.

And then there are the vocals Lindsay Lou. She's a strong, lively singer with a bit of elasticity in her delivery. She had no trouble holding notes and added a high dose of emotion with her soaring, closing wordless segment on "The River Jordan," a sharp contrast to the softer delivery for most of the song.

While mainly bluegrass-based, Lindsay Lou (she's married to Rilko) had a bunch of soulful inflections ("Hot Hands" in partiulcar, although Rilkol did not hold back on mando either) in her reading. Sometimes even a bit jazzy. She turned in an a cappella bluesy, somewhat guttural reading of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line" as the first encore song.

The group turned in a fine take of The Beatles' "Rain," which did not make you think of the Fab Four.

In the hands of some bands, the diversity might leave listeners puzzled about exactly what the band is about. With Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, the changes only underscored the fact that these folks got the talent and chops to manage just fine.

Nashville may be the new home for the band, but with shows like this and CDs like "Ionia," chances are they're going to live up to past practice of putting miles on the van.