Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Album Review: Kelly Bell Band

Artist: Kelly Bell Band
Title: reincarnated
Writer: Rick Galusha

Released on the Phat Blues Music label, The Kelly Bell Band album, ‘reincarnated’ is the near perfect contemporary blues album. Bell ties together traditional blues structures and instrumentation with modern vocal delivery and harmonies in a sexy, tuneful exercise that liberates the artist from the shackles of recorded expectations and frees the band to grab from The Average White Band here or Robert Johnson there in a beautiful expression akin to sonic soaring well above the clutter of today’s independent ‘blues’ releases. This is an excellent album (and that was an awfully long sentence).

The track, ‘Can’t Take That Back’ includes a humorous banter between Bell and a former lover with tasty zingers including, “I got news for you Kelly Bell, you are nothing” and “You think you’re fabulous, NO!” “Kelly Bell, Phat Blues, hrumph, Phat Blues THIS!” “I think you suck, you’re tired and I have just about had it with you!” It is a hilarious quid-pro-quo exchange that cracks me up every time as Bell the ‘gets a ear full’ that all members of the male species have to heard more than once.

Bell’s take on Johnson’s ‘Love in Vain’ is, finally, an exciting, jumping rollick through a well covered field and amazingly comes out fresh. Rather than trying to replicate, Bell’s Band pumps vocal harmony lines with a sassy harmonica played by Dane Paul Russell. The song is given life and while the sharp edge and associated anguish intended by Johnson may be gone – it is an up-tempo and refreshing take on a blues classic.

For whatever reason the album’s eighth track is, ‘SpongeBob Squarepants.” While it is entertaining it sticks out like a sore thumb and may be best skipped. It would have been better tucked away at the end of the CD; a bonus track or something since it certainly throws off the momentum of an otherwise well paced record.

With tongue in cheek the band approaches the track, ‘Porno Star’ in a very Zappa-esque style. Somehow they are able to bring it back and make it sonically fit with the rest of the album although, clearly, it ‘tain’t the blues per se. Again, maybe it is this apparent lack of focus coupled with risk that keeps the album on track and interesting. This is the track that includes the obligatory ‘monster guitar’ licks but with some restraint. Like The Who’s, ‘A Quick One (while he’s away)’ this song melds into another seemingly unrelated songs or breaks…‘People are People’ where spoken word reads over a jazzy musical background. It is poignant and yet you can sense the smirk on Bell’s lips when he says, “You are one of billions and billions of stars, or snowflakes…did you know every snow flack is different?” The speaker goes on to say, “People are people, people need to be loved and not judged but not by you. There is one judge and that’s HIS job, not yours…you got you and then you’re surrounded by the world - that may be how you see it but its not. You’re a part of a great, great tapestry and you’re one thread…people need to be loved.” So, “people are people and I’m not the judge.”

This is a terrifically wide album with superb musicianship and a scattering of musical genres that are at once interesting and resonate. Because it doesn’t easily fit into a comfortable genre box The Kelly Bell Band is not going to set the world on fire but I can easily see this as a cross-over album that, given proper attention, could bring in folds of listeners and in its own special way make your corner of the world better for having heard it. This is a much needed breath of fresh air in the often cerebral-less homologized world that contemporary music seems to want to offer us.

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