Counsel of Elders: William Bell on Learning Your Craft

Originally published with The Bluegrass Situation on July 29, 2016.

When William Bell speaks, he peppers his sentences with laughs — big, boisterous sounds of joy that burst forth from his being. He is a happy man whose gratitude and graciousness arise through the chuckles that begin, end, and sometimes interrupt his answers. Bell’s newest album, This Is Where I Live, finds the singer and songwriter returning home to Stax Records, the label that launched him when he recorded his debut single in 1961, “You Don’t Miss Your Water (Until Your Well Runs Dry).” From the sound to the poignant lyricism, there’s a classic Stax feel that runs throughout the album, juxtaposed with the growing and stretching and learning Bell has done along the way.

His newest effort is full of original songs, including the moving, introspective “The Three of Me.” It’s a steady jam punctuated with slow-building horns, as Bell waxes philosophical about “The man I was, the man I am, and the man I want to be.” That kind of perspective can only be gained through time and experience, and, thankfully for listeners, Bell remains willing to share what he’s discovered. Beyond that, the album focuses on the highs and lows of love — especially the beauty and pain memories can deliver — the communities that made him, and a new take on an old classic. The album contains a fresh version of “Born Under a Bad Sign,” the renowned song Bell co-wrote with Booker T. Jones. It’s been covered and covered and covered again, but producer John Leventhal put together a new arrangement for Bell that strips away some of the song’s most memorable parts to show off another, somehow more crackling, side.

[Full article available at The Bluegrass Situation.]

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