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Vince Bell: Ojo (Vince Bell)

Chris Mosey By

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Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: "Wine is bottled poetry," which—while witty—is not strictly true. Oscar Wilde said: "A poet can survive everything but a misprint," which is witty and true. But, getting to the real nitty gritty, Robert Frost came up with: "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words," as precise a definition as it's possible to find.

Vince Bell is a poet from Austin, Texas, who has written songs for Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. He has hitherto been labelled "folk." Now that label has been changed for some reason to "jazz," which is how come he turns up here.

He sings some numbers, speaks others. The opening track, "A Little Poetry," which is spoken, warns: A little poetry is dangerous. . It goes on to state: The truth is just a point of view, everybody's got one. But in the following number, "Bads And The Better," Bell admits to an anomaly in what he's doing: First time it's art. Second time it's showbiz.

"Where The Wind Sleeps" has a folksy banjo accompaniment. The poet is sitting writing on his balcony at night, while his male friends are "tomcats on the prowl," going through "lifetimes of senseless victories and glorious defeats."

Even when he touches on serious matters, there's something homey, humorous, even comforting about Bell. He's not lecturing. Nor does he go on and on pontificating about life and death—especially death—as the late Leonard Cohen, singer/songwriter par excellence, was wont to do, especially in his later work. "The Snake" is the closest Bell comes to gloom and doom. He's bitten by the creature, but it's the snake—"a writhing muscle glaring from the grass"—that dies.

Bell's poetry makes a very welcome change from standard lyrical fare. It prods at your rational outlook, forces you to think, perhaps re-evaluate.

Do you ever break down? he asks in "Oh, Yeah." Do you ever go to pieces? And he winds up such questioning with The hardest thing to do is nothing at all.

"If You Walk Away" contains some of the most atmospheric lines: The west wind cries under the stars at night. A lonesome sound.

Say goodbye, dry your eyes. Nobody knows for whom the next wind blows.

Track Listing: 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.

Personnel: Vince Bell, Laura Cantrell: vocals; Rob Schwimmer: continuum; Pedro Cortez: flamenco guitar; Ratzo B. Harris: bass; David Mansfield: banjo, violin, dobro; Renaud-Gabriel Pion: clarinet; Patrick Derivaz: shaker; Robert Dick: flute, bass; Valerie D. Naranjo: percussion; Dave Soldier: violin; Satoshi Takeishi: drums.

Title: Ojo (Vince Bell) | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Mulatta Records

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