William Bell, “This Is Where I Live” (Stax)
William Bell aces his return to the legendary Stax label with “This Is Where I Live,” an excellent album built on the foundations of his songwriting and vocal skills.
In the ‘60s, Bell performed or wrote a handful of blues and soul classics like “Everyday Will Be A Holiday” and “Born Under A Bad Sign,” and he continues to uphold those high standards even on the cusp of age 77.
His clear, smooth tenor lends authority and honesty to the 12 songs produced by John Leventhal, best known for his work with wife Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn and Shawn Colvin. Leventhal plays most of the instruments and co-wrote nearly every song with Bell, proving a sympathetic and inspiring partner. His “no frills, no clichés” approach hits the bullseye.
Bell, who founded his own record label and left Stax in the mid-‘70s, sings about his Memphis roots and musical journey on the title track, while “More Rooms” cautions that for a marriage to last, remember that “there’s more rooms in a house … than the bedroom.”
Bell’s take on “Born Under a Bad Sign,” which he wrote with Booker T. Jones, alters the classic guitar riff and is more a weary lament than a complaint. “Poison in the Well” is sung by a victim of love over a Robert Cray-style groove, and the second line from the refrain of “All the Things You Can’t Remember” is “I’m still trying to forget.”
After a fallow decade, “This Is Where I Live” proves that in the right company Bell is still an enduring source of brilliance.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.