There was I wondering what Chris Bell was doing to his guitar when I remembered he actually plays the cello. With that fact clear in my head let me now state that the cello is a civilised instrument and his album “Rust” is a civilised album yet, remarkably, it is not an album that plays it safe and that, dear friends, is a distinctly good thing.
For a start, the very first song here is a version of “Smokestack Lightning” that initially seems nothing if not conventional until that cello makes an appearance and crushes the song under the weight of musical irony. That very irony makes a reappearance in “Lost in the Rush” making the song seem something of a coffee shop cover of a Talking Heads album track. Well-mannered but most certainly not a latté.
“Path Back Home” moves the cello temporarily out of the spotlight in favour of the kind of world weary vocals that populated many a Tom Waits album while “Gone Gone” fingersnaps itself between now and the country blues of the past with just the merest hint of Morricone taking the song into the sunset. To some, it might sound like Chris Bell needs a compass to find his true musical direction but the truth is that he never actually loses his footing no matter what stylistic path he follows.
People of taste with a sense of adventure that takes them beyond pepper vodka will appreciate both the quirkiness on show here and the eminently urbane approach that Chris Bell takes.