Bell, Vince - Ojo,
This is a somewhat unusual album, in that for the most part it is spoken word with some quite different accompaniments from flamenco guitar to avant garde jazz, Americana, percussion and more. Bell actually made his name as a songwriter, with the likes of Nanci Griffiths and Lyle Lovett recording his material. When it comes to singing, which happens on some numbers, he sounds to me as if he is struggling and these songs just aren’t up to the quality of the rest of the material. His spoken word voice, speaking his poetry over the top of the music, is incredibly breathy, earthy, and compelling.
The album shows what might have been, if he had not fallen into the singer-songwriter country music of some numbers, as these just aren’t in the same league as the others. The flamenco guitar of Pedro Cortes is superb, and I would have loved to have heard more numbers like “Bads and the Better” where the mix works incredibly well. Bell has a strong control of words, and brings in emotions when speaking that are just lost when he sings. Intriguing and interesting as opposed to being totally essential.