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  • Apr 30

    St. Ann's Church


  • Jun 9

    The Archway



Americana UK – Phil Edwards Laid back songs about love, death and life. Jan Bell was born in Nottinghamshire and now resides in Brooklyn, NY. She lists New York City, New Orleans, Yorkshire, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Rocky Mountains, the Memphis Minnie, the Mississippi River, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Dylan Thomas, The Waterboys, Billy Bragg and Enid Blyton as her influences. She also likes campfires and old porches, and being off the beaten track in the morning'. I wouldn’t have thought there were many tracks to wander down in Nottinghamshire each morning, so maybe that’s why she’s ended up in New York State. When I first saw this album in my letterbox I thought it was someone called ‘’Jam Bell’’, which I thought was an interesting name, and I was expecting a mans voice to start singing. But I’m pleased I’d misread it, as Jan’s voice is sweet, soulful, sparse and at times ‘old-timey’. Which is pertinent as she als tours with old-timey country Trio The Maybelles. ‘Songs for Love Drunk Sinners’ is produced by Samantha Parton of the Be Good Tanyas and is a mighty fine album. But don’t expect to get it the first or second time round. This album didn’t really grab my attention until track seven, the third time I played it. ‘Miners’ is a Wilfred Owens poem set to music. Owen was a prolific poet who was killed in the Somme, one week before the Armistice was signed in 1918, He was 25. What caught my attention was the use of Elyas Khan on backing vocals which gives this song a native American feel. Which is intriguing, as Khan is a British born south Asian who also resides in New York City. So what sets Jan Bell apart from the run of other lady folkies? And there many of them. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s not afraid to show her vulnerabilities and let the songs speak for themselves. She doesn’t feel the need to over produce and sometimes it’s what’s not being said that makes all the difference. This album features slide guitars, harmonicas, mandolins, glockenspiel, accordian and banjos, along with upright bass, recorder, violin and pedal steel – they’re all here. All used to good effect I might add. Stand out tracks include the opener ‘January Morning’ a slow melancholic ballad, the more up-tempo ‘Leaving Town’, ‘Snowbird’, ‘Carpenter’s Arms’ - about a one off encounter with a “travelling man” - which includes the wonderful opening lines “I knew what I wanted when I took down my hair, I wanted you right then and there, played it cool like I didn’t care”, The cd also includes a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Snake Song’, and of course the aforementioned ‘Miners’. Winner of many awards – too numerous to mention here – Bell has opened for Emmylou, Ray Charles and has been on the same bill with many acts including The Be Good Tanyas. In addition she’s also played Manhattan Women's prison Christmas party with her band, one cold December day, when “everyone wound up dancing”. Don’t expect any histrionics or over the top drama. This cd contains simple well sung songs. Just the way it should be.