Del-Tona – 1999 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

CDs by Belleville

Add Berkeley, Cal.-based Belleville to the list of young bands, like Buckeye, Cropduster and Forever Goldrush, heating up the Northern California country rock scene. While the hushed opener "Blame" reveals a slightly textured, Sparklehorse-like quality, the rest of Belleville's debut is a more pure, melodic Americana, where Neil Young's "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere" - the album's sole, and well-rendered, cover - fits right in. The band hits home on originals like the jaunty, twangy "Gatherer," the more mournful country air of "Riverman" and the infectious '60's pop-flavored "Something There."

Around for about two years, Belleville is fronted by guitarist Mark Caputo, whose warm vocals guide most of the tunes. Bruce Drake, who also sings lead on a couple numbers, bolsters the sound with his electric guitar and steel work, while bassist Robert Zapata and drummer George Railston ably hold down the bottom end. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes (including a short instrumental), Belleville's initial offering is an impressive, if modest, effort that shows a young band off to a promising start.