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Well Strung Band Hangs Together

Justice Department lawyers find musical comrades from around the region, release first album.

Beth-Allison and the Well Strung Boys just fell together last year, an accidental collaboration that surprised everyone involved.

The roots rock band came to Arlington last weekend, playing the second of three CD release parties at Luna Park Grille. "We’re trying to do a ‘tristate’ tour, along with a show in DC and in Silver Spring," said Beth Rinaldo, one of the band’s lead singers and songwriters. The album, "Snapshots," is a collection of 12 original songs, recorded earlier this year at Hit and Run Studios in Rockville.

But at the beginning of 2001, Rinaldo, a Springfield resident, and co-lead singer Allison Page, of McLean, had no idea they would end up performing live music in Washington-area bars and clubs.

Back then, they didn’t know each other. They were just two lawyers, each learning guitar on her own. Then Page got a job at the U.S. Department of Justice, where Rinaldo already worked.

That’s something of a well-kept secret.

"We try not to advertise the fact that we’re lawyers," Rinaldo said. "We get some funny looks."

She and other lawyers at the Justice Department play on a softball team, "Club Fed." Page showed up at one of the games, and the two women found they shared an interest in music. "We were talking about music, and realized we were the same skill level on guitar," Rinaldo said.

They had both been writing songs and were both working in about the same genre. Their influences overlapped in some areas, as well, including women in the country-folk-rock field like Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.

<b>THEY BEGAN WORKING</b> on songs together, trying to get their courage up to perform at open mic nights.

"We did one at Whitey’s," Rinaldo said. "We were so appalled at our stage fright, we called Kevin [Forder] in and asked him if there was any hope for us." Forder, another Justice Department attorney, surprised them by asking if they needed a bass player.

He had been playing with another local band, 6L6, which disbanded. So Forder invited 6L6’s guitarist, Scott Holland, a chiropractic office manager from Takoma Park, to add his skills at the Dobro and mandolin.

With that, the basis of Beth-Allison and the Well Strung Boys was in place – quite by accident. After a few months of playing together, the group had gelled, and they recorded a five-song demo CD, so they could find some paying gigs. Soon after, they found a drummer in Seth Brown, an environmental engineer from Alexandria.

The demo was mostly covers. But soon after the whole band was in place, they began practicing some originals, written by Holland, Page or Rinaldo. Each song has one author, at least initially. "Because we all have jobs, you end up thinking over a melody or words on your own," Page said. "But what ultimately results on the CD is a collaborative effort."

That happens when Forder, Brown and Holland figure out how their instruments fit into songs by Page and Rinaldo, songs with only lyrics and guitar chords in place. "It’s different from the rough sketch of the song," Page said. "If I play you the song on the CD and the song as I wrote it, it doesn’t sound like the same song."

<b>IT DOESN’T SOUND<b> much like any one musician’s influences, either.

"It’s funny, because we all come from different places," Page said. "Scott comes from playing rock guitar, I was doing a cappella groups, Kevin’s played bass in a punk band. We list our influences on the Web site, but it’s hard to say, ‘Oh, it sounds exactly like this group or that group.’"

Rinaldo agreed. "We probably don’t sound like our influences," she said. "But as far as writing songs, we would like to be compared to them."

The band will be expanding its range over the autumn, playing in Baltimore and a November show at the Cowboy Café South in Arlington.

"We’re trying to use the CD to get fans who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of us," Page said. "If they can take something home, I think you get a really positive response."

They’d also like to collaborate on song writing, if they can find the time. "We’ve all said it would be neat if we see what kind of song we would write if you put all of us together," Page said. "But we haven’t had the time, frankly."