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Chris Bell & 100% Blues - The Devil, My Guitar and Me

Silverbridge Records SBCD 007

Fourteen tracks; 59 mins 19 secs.

Until a couple of hours ago I had never heard of Chris Bell. Perhaps he is below the radar outside the borders of North America and that is a cryin’ shame. Here’s an announcement: albeit that my audience is very far from huge, I intend to push him as much as I can in the UK and I sincerely hope that others will pick him up and promote him, because he deserves it.

If you are one of those who knows little or nothing about this young man, here’s some background. Chris was born in Washington, DC, and raised in Massachusetts introduced to the blues by his parents and his early music education included jazz, rhythm & blues, and gospel music. He started to play guitar when he was fourteen and cites his major influences as B.B. King and Albert Collins as well as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. All those influences are identifiable in his playing. His previous CD, also on Silverbridge. was called ‘Real Bluesman’ and that indeed is what he is.

His voice is husky and will become readily identifiable and his axe work is often incendiary, and nearly always controlled (just the occasional bit of flashy blues rock stuff) but always inventive and skilled.

All of the songs save one (which was written by Greg Allman) are his own work, with some clever lyrics and well thought-out arrangements. Check out ‘My Jimi Hendrix Stuff’, (“You can take what you want but don’t take my Jimi Hendrix stuff”). The delightful ‘John Lee Hooker’ (a wonderful justification of drinking, gambling and other such stuff, all of which is OK because, “John Lee Hooker told me so.”) and the homage to Robert Johnson (or at least the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 in Mississippi) in the title track ‘The Devil, My Guitar and Me’.

Chris plays acoustic guitar, electric slide and dobro as well as occasional bass and occasional harmonica and the pictures in the booklet even show him playing a cigar box guitar! The band (‘100% Blue’: Chuck England - Bass and vocals / Bill Nuti - Drums ) are tight and disciplined.

This CD really deserves to get some recognition through nominations in the upcoming awards season. To his record company and management, as John Luke Piccard said, “Make it so!” and let’s get him to Europe/ England before too long

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer  and has a webcast regular blues radio show on Phonic FM in Exeter (1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).

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