Bell lifts Stax’s soul game

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - JIM CAR­ROLL

Al­bum of the week

Stax was the la­bel where Wil­liam Bell made a name for him­self as a soul­man. In­deed, you could say that Bell, a soul singer with a warm tim­bre and a pen­chant for sub­lime, emo­tional ar­range­ments, helped de­fine what the Mem­phis in­sti­tu­tion was all about, with songs such as You Don’t Miss Your Wa­ter in the early 1960s.

Both singer and la­bel have had their ups and downs ever since. After a spell in the US army, Bell be­came one of the Stax sol­diers, a writer and a singer who never quite got to shine as brightly as his peers. The la­bel had many good days un­til the mid-1970s when qual­ity be­gan to slide, hits dried up and bank­ruptcy came a-knock­ing.

After a cou­ple of decades as a reis­sue shop, Stax has re­sumed work­ing with acts in the last cou­ple of years, scor­ing hits with Nathaniel Rateliff and Ben Harper. The de­ci­sion to work with Bell again is a great move, and not just from a legacy and her­itage point of view. Be as­sured This Is Where I Live is a record that would de­serve your at­ten­tion re­gard­less of the back-story.

Here is a singer with a fine voice weav­ing a spell on songs which are full of dis­tinc­tive takes on univer­sal top­ics. Open­ing track The Three of Me is a great ex­am­ple of this, Bell look­ing at how he was, how he is and how he will be in life. The warm, evoca­tive, im­pec­ca­ble play­ing around Bell here and on tracks such as All Your Sto­ries and

Walk­ing on a Tightrope en­sure a time­less lis­ten. Bell wrote Born Un­der a Bad

Sign with Booker T Jones back in 1967 and Al­bert King was the first of many to colour it in. Here, he re­claims it and makes it his own again with panache and grace. This Is Where I Live is a record of au­then­tic south­ern soul cre­ated with a lot of love and at­ten­tion.

WIL­LIAM BELL This Is Where I Live ★★★★ Stax

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