The technicians who gave this CD its sound faithfully reproduced the sometimes Warren Zevon-like smokiness of Bells voice as well as the subtleties of his deceptively simple guitar playing and its (literally!) mesquite tone. Ten of the 11 tracks are Bells compositions; one the discs program notes call "a going away present" to the late Townes Van Zandt. The song Bell didnt write is Van Zandts "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold." As suggested by the Van Zandt connection, Bell has strong Texas roots. He has been living next-door in New Mexico, and both his songs and his style feel inspired by vast, open, and quiet Southwest landscapes.
I find "Where the Late Night Crowd Is Led" and "Labor of Love" especially appealing for their quick tempos and compelling rhythms. The former for its outwardly directed lyrics, too. Most of the tunes focus on the writer-singers inner life, but Bell avoids dull and trivial self-indulgence. The engineers kept the accompanying instruments -- bass, piano, fiddle, and more -- in the background, for it would be all too easy to drown out important aspects of Bells performance. But if you listen to that background, you will hear skilled playing throughout.
This is definitely a fine collection of songs, especially if you pay attention to the great amount of good music not pushed by mega-companies as part of the current pop phenomenon.
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