Luke Bell

Luke Bell – 2016 (Blue Hill Music/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Luke Bell

If nothing else, Luke Bell deserves a round of applause for releasing an album that kicks off with a full-throated honky-tonk shuffle - in 2016, no less. The shuffle, like the fiddle solo or harmony vocals, doesn't seem to have a place in modern country music. Not only does Bell shake the dust off what was once a country music staple, he does it with style in "Sometimes." Bell mixes classic country sounds with a modern-day feel throughout his debut, but it never comes across as dated or retro.

Bell, who wrote every song without a co-writing credit in sight, is a deceptive songwriter. "Sometimes" and "All Blue" are simple enough numbers with pretty straightforward lyrics. "Loretta," on the other hand, is a poignant, heart-breaking depiction of a dying relationship. Bell also shows off his story-telling chops on "The Bullfighter," drawing the listener in with minimal accompaniment.

Vocally, Bell knows his strengths and tends to stay in his pocket. He does not have the biggest range in Nashville - the yodeling in "Working Man's Dream" sounded like it hurt. When he hits his sweet spot though, his powerhouse vocals are reminiscent of Sturgill Simpson at his country-est.

Clocking in at just over a half hour in length, Bell's debut leaves a strong impression in a short amount of time and puts him on the short list of intriguing new acts of 2016.