Hearing the name Ola Belle Reed probably won’t mean too much unless you’re from North Carolina or have an unhealthy penchant for digging up music only existent to most as an historical page marker.
There aren’t a wealth of recordings that feature Reed, mostly accompanied by either her brother, husband and later on her son, who gets referred to as a kid looking like he should be in the Fuzztones by the folks at Allmusic. Apart from that description being amusing, the fact that Reed played music across such a wide span of time points at not just her ability to perform, but to craft a body of working capacious of speaking to more than a single generation.
Taking as much from folk music as blues and early country music, Belle’s best known compositions don’t sit in a single genre, so much as reference an era of American’s recording on acoustic instruments. Pervasive Carter Family references are sure to crop up here and there, but Belle wasn’t in the business of collecting songs to disseminate stories. She wanted to explain her own thoughts. And it might be for that reason “I’ve Endured” sounds like an invitation to sing along to a familiar song even as its most likely not familiar to a huge number of people.
Belle’s voice wavers over lines describing her upbrining in the country, experiencing some crazy storms and making it through. It’s the same story listeners are likely to hear Louis Armstrong croak – or any other notable singer from the twentieth century’s first few decades. Beyond just that widely covered song, mention of mountains, traversing difficult roads and times comprises a huge portion of Belle’s catalog. Of course, a sturdy religiousity gets added it, but that shoulda been expected.
With or without the spirit, though, the spate of song’s Belle left behind (she died in 2002, a few years after a stroke) works as entertainment as well as the story of her life.