When Vince Bell sings "I sure wish that I was dead," it's not the sound of some overly sensitive singer-songwriter bleating about his angst; it's a man who has peered over the precipice and lived to tell about it.
While "Phoenix" is plenty strong enough to fly on its own, it's difficult to discuss the song without telling Bell's story. He was an up-and-coming Texas troubadour when he was almost killed in a car accident 10 years ago. After coming out of a coma, Bell needed to learn how to walk again.
Bell not only relearned how to walk, he relearned the guitar, singing and songwriting.
"Phoenix" is not easy listening; it's not music to throw on the CD player at a cocktail party. But neither is it 45 minutes of gloom, and anyone with the time and inclination to give it a real listen will be rewarded.
Highlights include "Woman of the Phoenix," which Nanci Griffith covered recently, and "Sun & Moon & Stars," a sort of dusty barroom reflection on life.
The music falls somewhere within the country-folk spectrum. Bell's agreeably weathered voice sounds like someone who dropped by to tell you some stories over a beer or two and the songwriting bears up under repeated listening.
Ä Eric Fidler, Associated Press Writer
Dave Edmunds' "Plugged In" cooks as though it was made by a tight little rock band that has mastered blues, rockabilly, soul and straightforward power pop. It is clean and crisp enough to be the work of a cadre of scurrying producers, engineers and other specialists.
Well, yes and no.
See, Edmunds does all that stuff himself. After a few disappointing recent efforts, he crafted "Plugged In" at his Los Angeles home, in the spare bedroom.
Edmunds, who co-founded Rockpile and has produced k.d. lang, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and others, is at home on both sides of the mixing board. With an array of compressors, effects processors and equalizers Ä not to mention four Gibsons, a Martin and a Fender Telecaster Ä he pulls off a rare stunt. He makes technology sound personal.
The most engaging cut is "Beach Boy Blood (in My Veins)." This refreshing tribute focuses not on bikini drooling and "Surfin' U.S.A." fluff, but on the art Brian Wilson preferred, like "God Only Knows" and "'Til I Die."
But what about the bouncing, riff-based rockers that have marked the best of Edmunds' 20 years-plus on guitar? Try "Chutes and Ladders," ZZ Top's "One Step Back" or "Standing at the Crossroads." "The Claw" is an old Jerry Reed instrumental, but Edmunds' steely picking sounds more like Chet Atkins.
Edmunds ends "Plugged In" with "Sabre Dance '94," a manic, revamped version of his early 1970s instrumental that sounds as though he collapsed from exhaustion immediately afterward.
Throw in the Cajun-spiced "It Doesn't Really Matter" and a ballad that allows Edmunds to get serious, and "Plugged In" turns out to be a doubly personal effort. Not only does it cover the Dave Edmunds musical spectrum, but he did it all himself . and gets all the credit.
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