“Making the best possible use of the atmospheric, captivating vocals of Lizzy Ross, Durham folk duo Violet Bell puts an eerie, vaguely avant-garde twist on traditional roots music, suggesting the lovely but slightly askew early John Cale releases. Garnished with beauty but fraught with an underlying menace, tunes like “Dream the Wheel” under score the interplay between Ross and multi-instrumentalist Omar Ruiz-Lopez.” (Indy Weekly)
Violet Bell cites a wide range of influences. From Debussy to Neil Young, D’Angelo to Lou Reed, their unique sound blends folk, soul, bluegrass, blues, and classical. Their songs are otherworldly yet made from the stuff of everyday life, exploring questions of intergenerational change, our relationship to Earth, and the human emotional experience.
Since their inception in March 2016, Violet Bell has played over 200 shows, earning fans from FL to VT with long stretches on the road. On stage, the energy between Ross and Ruiz-Lopez is fiery, intimate and intuitive. Their sound is true to the mutating nature of music, as life on the road continually brings fresh inspiration into the mix.
Violet Bell keeps live performance at the core of their debut release Dream the Wheel. Ross sings and plays guitar, as Ruiz-Lopez adds violin, viola, cello, keys, guitar and vocal harmonies. The result is alchemical; emotionally evocative music that “sounds like a beautiful dream turned sudden nightmare.”(IW)
The album’s title track, “Dream the Wheel,” speaks to a fearlessly inclusive view of life’s cyclical polarities. “Sing, sing, everything/ Comes and goes and comes again/ Let it out and let it in/ Let it be your medicine,” “No such thing/ as too far/ or too deep/ or too dark.” In the modern era of rising seas and informational flooding, these lyrics could be chilling or comforting – it’s yours to interpret.
The album cover, a medicine wheel that Ruiz-Lopez and Ross crafted from local NC flora, speaks to the origins of the music. Violet Bell is rooted firmly in the natural world and the community from which they’ve grown. The September 15 release show for Dream the Wheel featured three members of the Durham Kidznotes All-Star string ensemble, whom Ruiz-Lopez has helped to teach since 2011. For Violet Bell, community connection is a big-picture goal. Says Ruiz-Lopez, “We’ve seen how music can transform lives and communities for the better. We want to know, how can this music plant seeds of change for our children’s generation?”
Prior to Violet Bell, Ruiz-Lopez honed his chops on the road with Jonathan Byrd and Crystal Bright, and composed several original pieces for the Durham Symphony Orchestra. Ross has been a two-time Kerrville New Folk finalist and won Floydfest’s On the Rise contest, a Carolina Music Award, and an Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council.
As Violet Bell, Ross and Ruiz-Lopez become a dynamic musical force that’s greater than either one of them alone. There is a quiet power building in their music, a brave and playful spirit, willing to dance with shadow and light.
Violet Bell is currently touring their debut Dream the Wheel and recording their second album for release in 2018.