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and Song (live) Volume One
Artist: Steve Bell
Label: Signpost Music
Time: 14 tracks/58:13 minutes
Stories have been my companions through most of my life. As a child, I spent many hours reading the Hardy Boys. One of my earliest memories of hearing recorded stories was listening to the humorous and captivating childhood anecdotes of Bill Cosby.
Sadly, my love of stories faded as I grew older. But they suddenly took on new importance when I became a Christian. As a young Christian, I delighted in the narratives of the Old and New Testaments. Here was a book filled with stories that gave meaning to my life.
Along with a revived interest in stories, came a new appreciation for music that spoke to my faith. During the days of what is known as the Jesus movement, it was common for artists to give their testimonies and share stories during concerts. I remember Barry McGuire and the 2nd Chapter of Acts sharing glimpses of God at work in their lives between songs on To the Bride.
More recently, I discovered again just how much stories can fire my imagination. Being introduced to the writings of F. W. Boreham was like rediscovering a treasure that I had long neglected. Boreham’s use of illustration, which often consisted of drawing upon the vast reservoir of literary works that he read, was pure delight.
One wonders today if storytelling has become somewhat of a lost art. At the very least, it seems to have fallen by the wayside, at least when it comes to concert performances. It seems that many artists have little to say from the stage, preferring to let their music do the talking. But in doing so, they may be robbing their fans of a richer and fuller experience.
Stories teach, and bring laughter. In this day and age, it’s not always easy to laugh. Some of us need help. I’ll never forget how much a packed little church laughed at the hilarious stories of Christian artist Bob Bennett one Sunday night. We should not discount the value of humor, and stories also provide insight into our lives.
Steve Bell provides both on Story and Song, a live concert performance. The stories of his life and family serve as introductions and commentary on his exquisitely-crafted songs, performed solely to the accompaniment of guitar. “Fresh and Green” and “Marie” were both written for his mother, who made the often-difficult transition of becoming a senior. Both reflect a tender beauty and hope.
Never preachy, Bell’s stories are compelling and often leave the listener with something practical to ponder. Best of all, he’s realhonest and unpretentious. There’s no overly pious talk here. What we get our many moments of laughter often followed by a penetrating reflection that gets at the heart of a matter in just a few words. There are five stories aside from a short introduction and closing, and seven songs.
The songs are drawn from his previous recordings, and these are excellent renditions. The production is outstanding, making you feel like you are right there.
The music styles vary. After talking about the realities of married life, Bell launches into the bluegrass flavored “That’s Alright with Me.” The blues-inspired song, “How Long,” follows Bell’s thoughts on the absence of lament as an expression of worship.
Many of the songs are adaptations from different Psalms. By not slavishly using the exact words, Bell succeeds in truly making them songs.
This is the first in a series of four planned story and song CDs. What concert fans have enjoyed and requested for years is now available to everyone.
On this release, Bell does an excellent job of demonstrating how well story and song can work together. This will not only delight fans and others, but may also serve to inspire other artists to consider anew this meaningful pursuit.
December 18, 2006