‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Americana UK (Jeremy Searle)
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Americana UK

“The phrase ‘world music’ is currently getting one of its regular kickings from those whose knowledge of it is in inverse proportion to the number of words they spout. Were they to look for something that is indisputably of that genre however they could worse than alight on the third album from Orpheum Bell.

An American band for sure, but with members originally from Ukraine, Holland and Armenia as well as the States they throw in influences from all those places’ musical styles as well as roaming up and down the years to encompass early jazz, tango and ragtime, not to mention folk and contemporary rock’n’roll.

It could be a recipe for disaster, and it’s true that when a band cites as influences The Clash, Django Reinhardt and Russian poet and singer Vladimir Vysotsky amongst others the specter of Pseuds Corner looms large but the Bell, as they probably don’t want to be called, pull it all off with aplomb. It’s a carny sound they create, the sound of a traveling medicine show rolling into town, but a long way from the sometimes sinister undercurrents of that music, for theirs is warm, welcoming and consistently engaging. The playing is inventive and sublime, particularly on the instrumentals scattered thought the album, and the lyrics, notably on the sad tale of ‘Poor Laetitia’ and the wrenching ‘Daddy’s Crying‘, powerful and poignant. A great album, one that’s both enjoyable and interesting.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Driftwood Magazine (Jon Patton)
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Driftwood Magazine

“Musically, everything on the album is interesting, and the astonishing depth is revealed in repeated listening. But the highlights are with the title track, a showcase for violinist Henrik Karapatyan; “Poor Laetitia“; the eastern Europe-meets-bluegrass mashup “Family Pictures”; the duet “Chain Stitched Heart” (possibly the most purely cheerful sounding song on the record); and the finale “Khadaya Ptitsa” (“Skinny Bird”). The lyrics (which are in Russian) to “Skinny Bird” again call to mind the Waits influence to close out the record, with a chorus that alludes to a children’s rhyme set to a background that’s nearly as frenetic as a Balkan brass band:

Skinny bird, fly away home
Skinny bird, the river’s close at hand
Skinny bird, I’m with you
I’m with you, I’m with you”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – No Depression (Lee Zimmerman)
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No Depression

“Given Aaron Klein’s crusty rasp and the band’s penchant for a good tango, Orpheum Bell initially comes across as an unlikely combination of old world enchantment and the foreboding sound of middle period Tom Waits. That may seem strange at first, but the band’s ability to meld a plucky rhythm with sinewy arrangements breeds some interesting encounters, particularly when it comes to the enticing “Poor Laetitita,” the playful “Family Pictures” or the seductive instrumental come-on invoked by the title track.

Banjo, accordion, glockenspiel, trumpet, xylophone, violins and trumpet all play a significant role in the proceedings, and if this, the band’s third album, sometimes sounds like a cross between a gypsy lament and a celebratory song for a Greek wedding, then that only affirms the band’s ability to tug at their roots. In that way, Orpheum Bell defies description, which for many will likely make their self-described “Country and Eastern” mélange all the more entrancing indeed.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – American Songwriter (Evan Schlansky)
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American Songwriter

“The genre-bending Ann Arbor folk band with an Eastern European bent (they call it “Country and Eastern”) and Tom Waits-y vocals have hit their stride with their latest collection of songs.

‘The Old Sister’s Home is our third album and it is the best reflection so far of our original sound and our individual stories,’ says Orpheum Bell’s Aaron Klein.

‘We all came from very different places, physically –Ukraine, Holland, Armenia, Cincinnati — and listened to some very different music growing up. But in our band, we come together around a sound that takes in the musical crushes we’ve had on country music, gypsy, early jazz, tango and pair them with our own rhythms, melodies and lyrics. Like growing up in different rooms of the same house and coming together for supper, say. That is the great part of being an American band with the freedom to listen and play as we choose.'”

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Performance review: Orpheum Bell at the ArkMotorcity Blog (Samer Masri)
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Motorcity Blog

“Local band Orpheum Bell played at the Ark last Saturday and received the first standing ovation I’ve seen there. Their set had a strong theme, some singular style they’ve assembled from bluegrass, gypsy, jazz, waltz, country and rock and some genre that might end with the word ‘-noire’. They are definitely a skilled band, with strong rhythm…, and an uncanny ability to play many instruments together on stage.

…this band’s aesthetic appeal was so tasteful and consistently surprising that it added something to the experience; every time I put my camera to rest came a new reason to use it….

I counted no less than 28 instruments over the course of the show, many of them antiques. There were enough like a Romanian horn violin, the skull of some carnivorous animal serving as percussion, and a strange trumpet I can’t even name played through a bowl of water…”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Ann Arbor Observer (Chris Berggren)
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“Orpheum Bell has been kicking around Ann Arbor since 2005, playing its distinctly Eastern European folk, yet genre-challenging, sound. Founded by Aaron Klein and Serge van der Voo, the only remaining members of the original group, the band has carved a niche by mixing completely different styles of music and making it work–all the while playing an array of truly unusual instruments…

…Jennie Knaggs, a former Kentucky yodeling contest winner who lends backing vocals on three tracks, even adds some yodeling to “Family Pictures”. The album also includes three instrumentals and one song sung in Russian (both Klein and Karapetyan are fluent). Overall, The Old Sisters’ Home has that feel of an album from a band in the right spot–one that’s matured, knows its influences, and is moving forward confidently.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Aiding & Abetting (Jon Worley)
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“It’s one thing to have a chest full of influences. Orpheum Bell turns the trick of actually making sense of those disparate traditions and refining the sound into something coherent. These are songs, and they work. Boy, do they.

A rollicking, joyous affair. This album is pure enjoyment from the start. Turn it up and take your shoes off. It’s time to dance.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Mad Mackerel
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Mad Mackerel

On Daddy’s Crying:
“This intimate, waltzy vignette is another example of their elegant and organic sound. It is the perfect soundtrack to a hot bath, a bottle of red wine and a broken heart. Dive in and indulge yourself.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Jersey Beat (Joe Wawrzyniak)
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Jersey Beat

“This folksy gypsy group sounds like nothing else you’ve heard before; it’s a wildly eclectic mix of insanely diverse musical styles and genres that blends beautifully together to create an idiosyncratic aural entity entirely unto itself. A superbly unique pip.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Insomnia Radio (Charles Stepczyk)
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Insomnia Radio Network

“The Old Sister’s Home is Orpheum Bell’s most ambitious CD to date (it’s third!) with an eclectic style mixing folk, country, Eastern, and even a hard-driving song sung in Russian.”

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‘The Old Sisters’ Home’ review – Beehive Candy
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Beehive Candy

“Orpheum Bell’s “Poor Laetitia” conjures up images of smoky backroom tangos and darkened theaters. Lead vocalist, Aaron Klein’s delivery of this character study of an awkward girl with a beautiful name is at once sneering and seductive. The muted trumpet and stomping tango beat settle this song on the eastern side of Orpheum Bell’s “Country and Eastern” spectrum. The song can be found on the upcoming The Old Sister’s Home (due out May, 8, 2012).

Orpheum Bell is an American band, but in 21st Century America, those words can carry a lot of baggage, both musical and cultural. The five band members bring together the sounds of their disparate homelands towrite songs that know no boundaries; laying down skewed grooves that skitter around the globe, absorbing beats and meters from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. “While our music isn’t specifically coming from any one of those places or cultures, says Klein, ” the sounds and songs we heard early in our lives get mixed into the songs we’re writing now.” Imagine a Ukrainian gypsy band playing cowboy tangos at a smoky bar in Havana. The band has been nominated for a 2012 WYCE Jammies awards, and they’re planning to tour the US to support The Old Sister’s Home and eyeing a European tour for 2013.

Listen: Poor Laetitia
Web: Official HERE.
We Say: So we are doing international and we are doing genre busting today. This is country and eastern, well that’s what we are told, whatever! This is sublime and the list of ones to watch out for 2012 has increased by one.”

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Orpheum Bell brings their enchanting sound to WYCE Jammies The Rapidian (Steven Davison)
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“Ann Arbor based band Orpheum Bell has been nominated for several WYCE Jammies, including Best Roots album for “The Old Sisters Home,” song of the year for “Poor Laetitia” and outstanding male and female artists for singer/guitarist/ukeleleist Aaron Klein and singer/multi-instrumentalist Katie Lee.

Orpheum Bell’s country and eastern sound has a timeless and boundless quality. The band utilizes acoustic instrumentation and vintage recording equipment
to create a sound that is, at times, warm and welcoming like an old
afghan and a rocking chair, ramshackle and shambolic like a gypsy
caravan, weaving intricate tapestries of melody and verse and rhythm,
and always achingly gorgeous. And sometimes all in the same song.

In addition to Klein and Lee, the band is rounded out by Henrik Karapetyan – violins, Michael Billmire – accordion, trumpets, xylophone, glockenspiel, shepherd harp, mandolin, pump organ and Serge van der Voo – double bass, foot percussion. The band’s latest release “The Old Sisters Home
is a taut 10 song masterpiece. It has the coziness of a well cluttered
room, a lived-in-ness that is evident in the time and care the band put
into creating it.”

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Orpheum Bell’s ‘Pearls’ A True GemAnn (Bob Needham)
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…..”Orpheum Bell achieves something unique on “Pearls”, the band’s new album: reaching deep into the past yet sounding completely fresh. It’s a terrific, fascinating work, and reaffirms the band’s reputation as a local treasure – and one that deserves a much wider audience.”

“The unusual instruments (plus the near-total abscence of drums, which aren’t missed at all) start to explain the original sound of Orpheum Bell, but they’re just a part of it. The lyrics – evocative yet mysterious, plainspoken yet cryptic – are another part. Bust mostly, it can’t be explained; this is music you need to hear.”

“Ah, yes, well played. Can’t forget that. These folks are excellent musicians, skilled, and soulful. And throughout the album they work as an ensemble so well it seems they were meant to do this together.”

“Finally, even the packaging concept of this album deserves some attention, too. Fully folded out, the cover derives from an old check. The cover was then letterpressed with copper plates on recycled paper using a hand-fed cylinder letterpress. And the whole thing only enhances the overall themes and feel of the album.”

….this album stands out. Orpheum Bell is a remarkable band, and “Pearls” is an amazing album.”

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‘Pearls’ review – Rootstime (Belgian review by Mieke Geukens)
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….”they weave a rich tapestry with their guitars, banjo, ukulele, dobro, autoharp, accordion, mandolin, musical saw, upright bass, percussion, and hurdy gurdy, which sometimes strikes us as essentially mythical. Especially the duo- or harmony of several voices and violin-playing ladies Annie, Laurel, and Merrill, contribute to the deceptively naive and fairy like atmosphere. All composers and instrumentalists together create a unique world in which among other things trees are homesick, the beach is covered with unfulfilled dreams, and the moon is called a coward.”

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‘Pearls’ review – Detroit Free Press (Martin Bandyke)
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“The Ann Arbor-based sextet Orpheum Bell delivers an intriguing blend of Django Reinhardt gypsy jazz and song stylings reminiscent of “Rain Dog”-era Tom Waits on “Pearls” (****, self-released), the group’s exquisitely played — and packaged — second release. Sporting letter-pressed artwork that looks like something out of the Civil War period, the music also features instrumentation from another era, with hurdy-gurdy, shepherd harp, ukuleles and even a musical saw coming into play. Guitarist Aaron Klein sings with the Waits-ian growl, while violinist Merrill Hodnefield provides a nice contrast with her gentler, more lilting vocals.

Orpheum Bell rings the strongest on the ambitious “Hard Money Suite,” which closes with the sensational “New Hearse for Hastings,” delving into dark subject matter with relish.”

‘Pearls’ review – Record Dept. (J. Felton)
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“Ann Arbor quintet Orpheum Bell self-describes their music as “Country and Eastern” – a mix of Balkan gypsy and traditional country with folk music influences. Their latest release Pearls features banjo, accordion, trumpet, soprano trombone, shepherd harp, musical saw, a suitcase pump organ, cittern, guitar and dobro, double bass, foot percussion and ukulele, culminating in another lovely album of rich lullabies, duets, stomps, rustic ballads, and gypsy waltzes. Orpheum Bell is unique, fresh and captivating; a band not to be missed by traditional music fans.”

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‘Pretty as You’ review – Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (Mark S. Tucker)
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“Orpheum Bell saunters an elegant tightrope between old days and new, progressive as hell while firmly rooted. Beautifully packaged, quietly dark eleganza showcasing extremely attractive chops and trad vocals set in renewed context….everything about it speaking of considered compositions, veteran experience, and literate lyricism drawn from elder days and almost nihilistic thoughts.”

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‘Pretty as You’ review – Victory Music (Hilary Field)
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“This band defies classification. With instrumentation that includes violin, banjo, upright bass, percussion, accordion, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, musical saw and vocals, Orpheum Bell is brimming with talent, imagination, ethnic variety and soul. Merrill Hodnefield opens the CD with her sultry and silky vocals, quietly transporting the listener into a musical world where acoustic roots, classical sensibilities and gypsy jazz meet head on and swirl into a beautiful whirlwind of sound. The instrumentals, particularly “Two over Ten,” showcase the enormous talent of this varied group of musicians, interweaving old world traditions with a contemporary edge. The sense of contrast is heightened when Aaron Klein’s vocals make an appearance, with a voice that is as raspy around the edges as Hodnefield’s is velvety. Together the collective members of Orpheum Bell bring all these elements together in a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.”

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Performance preview: Orpheum Bell Rings in a Big NightNorthern Express (Kristi Kates)
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“Orpheum Bell’s lineup is perhaps one of the most multifarious you might ever see in a popular-music band. Orpheum Bell basically means “theater bell,” and their music certainly has a theatrical element to it. Their sound is self-described as ‘Country and Eastern,’ melding the performers’ top-notch musicianship with complex lyrics and intricate arrangements; the songs somehow manage to both harken back to an earlier time (which the band echoes on their beautifully-designed packaging) and evoke a sound that’s so new it’s difficult to categorize it at all.”

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Orpheum Bell featured on You Crazy Dreamers (Olivier le Brenn)
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“Words and Tones have been thrown……welcome to Orpheum Bell’s musical world. Labeled as “Country and Eastern”, the Ann Arbor’s Quintet’s compositions are giving the listener this unique ubiquity gift in both time and place! From almost traditional country-ballads to gypsy waltzes, from the raspy vocals of Aaron Klein (a la Stuart Staples), to Merrill Hodnefield’s sweet-sweet and so beautifully placed – voice, for sure, you’re travelling with a first-class ticket!

With a long line of instruments (accordion, banjo, clarinet, fiddle, guitar, ukulele, autoharp, double bass, mandolin, pedal steel, musical saw, and the rare Tiebel (horned) Violin, you’ll have to face a real full band, giving each note meaningful rhythm in some delicious instrumental tracks such as ‘Motor in the Weeds‘ or ‘Two over Ten‘.”

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Surrealist Whispers from the PastAnn Arbor Observer (James M. Manheim)
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“……there’s a collection of younger artists who take the surrealist rather than the sunny side of 1920s culture as a point of departure, but Orpheum Bell goes beyond most of them. If you happen to have seen Guy Maddin’s entirely individual take on the visual language of European silent films, you might think of Orpheum Bell as something like the musical equivalent. This local band turned out a nearly full house of young people at one of the Ark’s free Take a Chance Tuesday concerts in September, and when young people pay attention to something quiet, everybody would do well to take notice.”

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Performance review: Orpheum BellReal Detroit (Eric Allen)
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“…pure country/bluegrass, which perfectly flows in harmony with intricate Eastern Europe sensibilities.”