Vocalist and guitarist Vince Bell has been a familiar name on the Texas music scene since the early 1970s. His songwriting skills precede him, and his compositions have been recorded by American rock band Little Feat and Nancy Griffith to name a few. Oja is his fifth studio album, and Bell brings together his own honest, at times dark, spoken-word with a variety of musical influences.
Actually, to give this album an overall genre is impossible. It shifts between Bell’s philosophical, foreboding poetry, backed by dissonant synthesizer, such as on the opening track “A Little Poetry”, to the upbeat and more melodic country-style “If You Walk Away”. There is a notable jazz influence through the dark, droning rhythmic piano on “Oh, Yeah”, as well Spanish style guitar improvisation on the superb “Gypsy”, and the title track, “Ojo”.
There is an expansive, gentle atmosphere to Ojo, afforded by the use of a wide range of acoustic instruments. Composer David Mansfield appears on the banjo on “Where the Wind Sleeps”, and the final track “Nothing at All” builds tension through the use of rapid flute playing and a mixture of frantic, accelerating percussion. From start to finish, Ojo is a very interesting album. The tempo rises and falls through its stylistic variations, with the only constant being Bell’s voice, whether it be his deep, raspy poetry, or his clear, passionate singing. Overall, Ojo is a great listen, demonstrating the skill of a man who’s been perfecting his music for decades.
A Little Poetry; Bads and the Better; Where the Wind Sleeps; The Snake; Oh, Yeah; If You Walk Away; I Don’t Wanna Hear It; Gypsy; Give Chance a Chance; Ojo; Nothing at All (33.50)
Bell (v, g); Laura Cantrell (v); Pedro Cortes (g, pc); Patrick Derivaz (pc), Robert Dick (f); Ratzo B. Harris (b); David Mansfield (bj, g, vn); Valarie Dee Naranjo (pc); Renaud-Gabriel Pion (cl, p); Rob Schwimmer (p, syn); Dave Soldier (vn, pc); Satoshi Takaeshi (pc). New York, 2017.
Mulatta Records 039