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BENNINGTON — There’s something about Southern Vermont that bluegrass singer-songwriter Bella White finds welcoming.

“It’s incredibly beautiful,” she said of this region in a recent phone interview from her home on Victoria Island in British Columbia, Canada. “I’m really drawn to parts of the world where nature is accessible and you can just get outside. Vermont definitely has that charm and quality. It’s close to Canada, it feels like home."

White recorded her debut album, “Just Like Leaving,” at Guilford Sound, just south of Brattleboro. Last summer, she performed a house concert in Manchester as part of the Billsville concert series.

Saturday at 8 p.m., White returns to Vermont for a sold-out one-woman show at The Coffee Bar in Bennington. If you don’t have tickets, don't fret: White will be back again in August, as part of the Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival.

“There’s nothing better than performing for people and feeling you’re touching a room full of people. It’s really special,” White said. “Especially after all this distance we’ve been collectively feeling, getting to come together in an intimate way is really powerful and really important. It feels amazing.”

In addition to material from “Just Like Leaving,” which has gotten positive reviews in the year since its re-release on Rounder Records — “subline Appalachian heartbreak,” Rolling Stone said — White plans to perform some new songs as well.

“As much as l love playing with a band, it’s been really fun to play new songs, just really bare bones, and let [the audience] hear what direction things are going in,” White said. “I feel like it's a really intimate show when it's just a songwriter and their instrument.”

You’d never know from listening to her music — or from talking to her for half an hour — that White is only 21, or that her songs of longing and heartbreak were written when she was still a teenager. Her singing voice has a timeless quality to it — as if it were part of the mountains where bluegrass evolved and grew as a genre.

Listening to the lyrics, what comes through is a sense of longing – if not for a loved one, then for “adulthood or freedom or whatever a late teen imagines adulthood to be,” White said. “Those songs were me trying to figure out my place, longing to figure out what that was.”

Some of those songs date back to when White started performing at the age of 16. And though part of her feels she's the same person who wrote these songs, she's logged a lot of miles between Western Canada, Boston, Nashville and tour dates across the country over the past five years.

The new songs, she said, are “maybe slightly less [about] coming of age but still experiential. Rather than “I want this,” they’re more “This is happening.”

Of late, White has been listening to the new record by Nashville indie folk singer-songwriter Erin Rae — “She just put out a new record produced by Jonathan Wilson, who I've been working with, and it’s really incredible,” White said.

“I've also been dipping my toes back into listening to more classic country: George Jones, Roger Miller, Earnest Tubb, and so much Emmylou Harris and all of the trio records,” she added. “Lately I’ve been craving the old stuff.”

That mix of old and new tracks with a review of her album in No Depression magazine, which reads, “White uses bluegrass traditions as her source material, but manages to create a finished product that is fresh and authentic.”

White’s love of classic country and bluegrass comes from her father, who listened to and performed the music regularly.

“I thought it was normal to have those records. I assumed everyone listened to bluegrass and country,” White recalls. “It was something that seemed so fun and enticing and I wanted to get into it.”

Show promoter Doug Hacker of Manchester said he’s “absolutely thrilled” to be hosting White here again, and that she’s planning on returning for the bluegrass festival. He's also grateful to The Coffee Bar for making the brand-new venue in Bennington's Putnam Block available. 

“Her show with us this summer was an absolute delight and she made tons of new fans,” he said. “Her show at The Coffee Bar quickly sold out. It's great to build a loyal fanbase and we heard incredible things from everyone who has seen her. "

Reach Greg Sukiennik at or at 802-447-7567, ext. 119. 

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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