Written by Julie Israel
No, no – not the estranged cousins of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Far from it. Unlike the nephews of wealthy Uncle Scrooge, Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez (Billy & Dolly) have built their success from musical scratch and adversity. Both survivors of former electric rock band “The Monolith,” after five years of pounding the pavement and little success in that endeavor the two needed some serious musical convalescence. Most fortunately for us, of course, this disbanded duo stuck together and, after two years of basement hibernation, set off anew, debuting as Billy & Dolly in 2009 with “In the Beginning,” and a fresh, more organic sound.
How have they fared since? Quite pleasantly: the San Fran band enjoys playing regular shows around the Bay area and has been slowly but surely growing its Californian presence. What really says auspicious, of course – and much to the delight of Billy & Dolly fans everywhere – was the release of a second full-length album, “Dally Bon Idyll” this May.
With light vocals and harmonies that recall The Kinks, The Beatles, and musical influences like Simon & Garfunkel and Dolly Parton – not to mention piano falling as clean and pleasant as the afternoon sunbeams – listeners can’t help but to be swept up, up, and away as the sweetness washes over them.
The very opening track of the album, “Oh Yeah,” draws the curtain back with every semblance of parlor charm, the popping piano and swaying vocals setting the stage for the sweet and idyll show to come. Another playful favorite, “Young and on the Way Up,” sounds distinctly like a vintage, high school slow-dance – perhaps something out of Grease or the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance – but is threaded with fresh electric guitar and percussion that claps from black and white to colored life.
Music that actually affects us, getting under our skin, up our arms, down our spines and in our hearts is rare, but Billy & Dolly, with their stripped-down, vocal-fronted requiems often do just that. “Old Ghost,” for example, is bittersweet, a nostalgic memory that nuzzles up like an old lover, but leaves you feeling cold and empty-armed.
True to the nature of the album, a single track has many beauties in its simplicity. “When the Sun Comes Up Tomorrow” is soft, its gentle electric bass mingling with airy, Beatles-like vocals and the rich, lower octaves of a trudging, heavy-foot piano. The chilling, harmonized line “Everyone will take their place in life” is followed only by a swell of synth and percussion like the world opening up before you (again, The Beatles come to mind.) The lyrics linger in your ears, echoing wisdom: “The good news is you’re gonna live / and no one knows your sorrow. / You just forget what you can’t forgive / when the sun comes up tomorrow.”
Billy & Dolly is a sugar-pop pair not to be missed. The band will play numerous shows around California this summer, but this northwester is a cloudy state shy of San Fran and would love to see them on tour! Hint, hint, guys.
Here’s a little listen and a download to guide you through your day