William Bell "This Is Where I Live"

If a lifetime of experience can be condensed into a sound William Bell has found the formula. With the oversight of producer and arranger John Leventhal and the support of a group of outstanding musicians, Bell has produced an album of great beauty, eloquence, grace, and depth, one that channels his years of experience as a songwriter and singer.

William Bell is a living legacy of Stax Record’s golden era. Before Otis Redding joined the label, before the signing of The Staple Singers or Sam and Dave, Bell was busy scoring Stax first solo artist hit “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” a tune he penned with Booker T. Jones. As a songwriter he was writing classics for Rufus Thomas, Albert King, and Etta James. In 1969 he founded the short lived Peachtree Records. Despite falling out of the public spotlight he’s continued to write and perform. 2016 offers a comeback with This is Where I Live and Bell makes the best of it.

Every song on the album, whether new or a resurrected gem, is imbued with emotion, warmth, and wisdom. Leventhal and Marc Cohn co-write five songs with Bell, including the opening track, “The Three of Me,” a study in self-examination. The trio also wrote “Poison in the Well,” a single that captures the essence of 1960s soul. “I Will Take Care of You,” co-written with Leventhal, is the kind of track that comes with age as the singer recommits to a life-long love. “This is Where I Live,” works as a bio for Bell’s life and career. There are covers of  Jesse Winchester’s “All Your Stories” and Leventhal’s and wife Rosanne Cash’s “Walking on a Tight Rope.” The remake of Bell and Booker T. Jones’ classic “Born Under a Bad Side” features an outstanding arrangement by Leventhal that recasts the song as a smoldering roots/soul number.

Marc Cohn and Leventhal contribute backing vocals while a fabulous group of musicians hit every mark, but the soul and heart of this album. At seventy-seven Bell remains one of the best singers of soul music. His voice is supple and resonates with the richness of a life well lived. This isn’t just a good soul album, it’s one for the ages.

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)