Jay Bellerose

(March 2009 Issue)

If you caught Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on 2008’s Raising Sand tour, you couldn’t help but focus on the guy providing the heartbeat to the harmony-laden, roots-and-roll revue, Jay Bellerose. Not only was Bellerose’s drumming an inventive jumble of slinky grooves, tumbling fills, and graceful accents, his rig was a thing of ragtag beauty, from the vintage tubs on down to the shakers strapped to his ankles.

“The set was a Slingerland Rolling Bomber kit, probably made in 1943 or 1944,” Bellerose says of his eye-catching vintage kit, which he also played on the Raising Sand record. “Because of the metal rationing during WWII, every drum company was forced to make a version of this kit. The lugs, lug casings, and rims are all made of rosewood, so it’s a very warm sound.

Bellerose describes 2008 as “rewarding on so many levels,” and it’s easy to understand why. He played on one of 2007’s most critically acclaimed albums in Raising Sand and spent much of ’08 touring the album. He also appeared on Sam Phillips’ Don’t Do Anything (and subsequent tour), Loudon Wainwright III’s Recovery, and B.B. King’s Burnett-produced One Kind Favor, which found him drumming alongside Jim Keltner.

“Jim was the captain of the ship,” Jay insists, “as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes we were both playing the same thing; other times Jim would play a roll and I’d orchestrate more percussion-type stuff, which is kind of the way I play anyway. I basically just tried to contribute but not get in the way.”

By Patrick Berkery