VISITING ACT: Belleville Outfit 

Gypsy Troupe: The Belleville Outfit rambles & in ragtime

"Carolina" from the album Wanderin'
Audio File

Think of the Belleville Outfit's success over the last year like a game of Texas Hold 'em. When you're dealt a pair of aces (or your band's first-ever gig is at MerleFest), success is yours for the taking. It doesn't hurt that the Austin-based six-piece segues with ease between big-band-swing, honky-tonk country, and gypsy jazz.

You might call it true Americana. Anchored by Phoebe Hunt's fiddle and spunky vocals, the group met in New Orleans, where three members were enrolled at Loyola University. Songwriter/guitarists Rob Teter and Marshall Hood, both Spartanburg natives, had been asked to perform at MerleFest with their high-school band, the DesChamps. Teter asked the organizers if he could bring his new group, which didn't even exist yet. Two days of rehearsals and a killer festival performance later, the Belleville Outfit is finishing up their second studio album after a year of coast-to-coast performances that included many of the nation's most prestigious festival venues.

"That's just the work of us touring our asses off, and some early people in Austin who were willing to help," says Teter. "It's what happened when a lot of people started turning their wheels at one time for something brand new, and so it's worked out pretty well."

This Thursday's appearance supports their 2008 release, Wanderin', but they'll release a whole new set of studio songs in May. To fund that project, the band turned to their fans, offering liner note recognition and a house performance to anyone donating $2,000 to adopt a song and pay for studio time.

"That has gone over with bells and whistles," says Teter. "When we released Wanderin', we were borrowing money, a lot of times from fans. It's a strange relationship to be owing your fans money. This time it was more of a donation, and in return we'd come play a house concert."

At 24, fiddle-player Hunt is the oldest Outfit member — and the only female. Teter, 22, says he'll return to college one day, but unless the band flatlines or is going down, he'll keep playing.

When you sound like Django Reinhardt dropped into the Texas hill country, there are plenty of reasons to keep on wanderin'. —Stratton Lawrence

Belleville Outfit performs at the Music Farm (32 Ann St., 843-853-3276) with support from Emily Lynch on Thurs. Feb. 12. Admission is $10. Visit www.musicfarm.com and www.bellevilleoutfit.com for more.


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