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Glenna Bell: Press

Face This World,” by Glenna Bell (Self)—She has the clipped vocal delivery of Janis Joplin without the blues and a Natalie Merchant quirkiness without Natalie’s I-Just-Bought-This-At-Starbucks snob appeal. Glenna Bell is a Texan who is one or two great songs, one or two lucky breaks from breaking out into the AAA radio format in a big way (she’s too rootsy for mainstream country). Her singing is heartfelt and distinctive (though on certain cuts she’s dead-on Janis) and the songs on “Face This World” worth recording.

Traditional country is still alive and well in Texas. That is apparent from the resurgence of real country music developed here, halting lyrics that punctuate each and every line from the CD of Glenna Bell, Face This World. The Houston coalition production of John Evans and support of an emerging true roots revival make this CD a joy. For fans of Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette to the neo-traditionalists that wish to have a sparingly beautiful album that transforms you back to 1953. Forget the poodle skirt, this music takes you back to the honky-tonk life where men ruled the music and the soft touch of a woman’s voice was at first regulated to the back of the room. Bell’s styling makes you hang on to every word. Backed by some of Houston's finest, Glenna Bell and Face This World will make you stand up and take notice of a new artist who needs to be recognized.

Music has always lived inside Glenna Bell, but it took her awhile to let her heart sing.

The Beaumont native grew up singing a cappella hymns in the Church of Christ, but beyond that, music remained a footnote throughout much of her life.

Bell quietly released an album, Nobody's Girl, on Houston's Sugar Hill Records in 1998, but that was more for herself and her friends. She wasn't sure about performing live and exposing herself to the world.

Face This World, Bell's haunting second album, is her official coming-out as a full-fledged musician. The disc was released earlier this year (also through Sugar Hill Records), and it's not only the realization of Bell's dream, but it's also a bittersweet reminder of her Aunt Cherry Mae Reese, who died in 2003 . . .

[Face This World] is a nice piece of work by a young singer/songwriter that runs in the vein of a pensive Mary Chapin-Carpenter, with two duets, “Moving On” and “Tumbling Down," with John Evans, that are almost more Ian and Sylvia than the originals. There's a minimum of backing to Bell's acoustic guitar and vocals, which are more than capable of standing on their own, thank you. When the band kicks in, as on the bluegrass flavoured “Here In Texas”, and “Cosmos Café”, it's toe-tapping time . . . Bell needs someone to toot her horn, fly her flag a bit more, as it were. She's worthy of the attention.

GLENNA BELL/Hoping I Could Be Wrong Writer: none listed; Producer: John Evans; Publisher: none listed; GB (track) (615-776-2060) —Producer Evans is the star here, crafting an absolutely killer track sporting subterranean rhythm beneath moody, echoey guitar work. Vocalist Bell gives the suspicion and doubt in the lyric just the right touch of pain and paranoia. An outstanding disc debut. Who wrote this nifty little number?

Ms. Bell's latest release has ten tracks, all her originals. Length is 36 minutes, 18 seconds. Sound quality and production are outstanding. Musicianship is top-flight throughout. The album presents a collection of brand new, old-style country/roots songs. There are no throwaway tracks. The lyrics are romantic slices of contemporary life as seen through eyes of a young woman. Her words ring with truth. The music draws on the wellspring of early Cumberland Mountains country/folk. But Ms. Bell's superlative, unique voice and her earthy presentation are the real strength of this marvelous album. Ms. Bell opens with the title cut, a gripping song of loss that inspires strength. Perhaps the best cut on the CD, the panoramic melody builds around her impassioned vocals. The up-tempo "Poor Girl" tells of a simple country girl living alone in the city and her dreams of a lifetime with a trustworthy, kind man. The spirit of Johnny Cash lives in the music. The emotional ballad "Moving On" is an excellent duet with producer/award-winning vocalist Evans. The song tells about the pain of ending a love affair. The strong drumbeat of "John" builds this powerful song of desperation to its bleak climax. My favorite slow tempo song is "March To Me," a spellbinding poem set to a haunting, minor key melody. The album closes with "Cosmos Café," my favorite up-tempo song. Banjoist Brian Thomas (Jesse Dayton Band) adds a neat flair to this pure country, happy romp. Ms. Bell's delightful high register yips are an old time country vocal technique that most singers can only dream about. Very Highest Recommendation. HINT: There's a surprise about a minute after "Cosmos Café" ends.

Face This World Glenna Bell (Sugar Hill) by SamHouston Don’t let anyone kid you. First impressions of a new album by an unfamiliar singer are important. And even one quick glance at the Face This World album cover leads a person to expect an earthy, down-home collection of songs, exactly the kind of thing that doesn’t come along too often these days. So I was afraid that the cover had probably set me up for a big let down and immediately wondered if the actual music would, or even could, live up to my expectations. There was nothing to worry about. As soon as I heard Glenna Bell’s deep, fragile vibrato on the first song, the album’s title track, I knew that she was something special. Glenna’s voice is hard to explain unless you’ve heard it for yourself because it’s a wonderful combination of strength and vulnerability, of small town Texas and big city Houston, of sadness and ironic happiness and relief. In fact, I recently had the pleasure of hearing Glenna do several of the Face This World songs live, just Glenna and her guitar, in somewhat stripped-down versions of the songs and I developed a solid appreciation for her lyrics as well as for her voice. Glenna’s vocal style was developed by singing songs in the a cappella style of her local Church of Christ, just a few miles north of Beaumont, Texas, where she lived until she was about 10 years old. Southeast Texas left its mark on Glenna in more ways than one, even helping her, in large part, to choose the Sugar Hill Studios in Houston to record her two albums because it was the birthplace of the biggest hit of another singer from the Beaumont area, the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” The eleven songs on the album (ten listed and one hidden bonus track at the end) tend toward the somber side of life, and Glenna sings each of them as if they happened to her yesterday. She is joined on two of the tracks by her producer, John Evans, for the moving duets, “Moving On” and “Tumbling Down,” the first song a woman’s explanation to her lover as to why she’s leaving him after three years, and “Tumbling Down” being a more hopeful song of lost and lonely souls finding each other for support. But not all the songs are sad or speak to opportunity squandered, and the title track itself, although about a sad experience, has so much energy that its overall effect may be just the opposite for most listeners. “Cosmos Café,” about a Houston restaurant, and “Poor Girl,” a song about two poor folks coming together in love, show how effectively Glenna can use her vocal style in quicker paced songs. Face This World is for music fans who like their music with a little bit of an edge. It’s for folks who enjoy discovering those rare voices that don’t really sound like anyone else they’ve ever heard before, but do remind them of someone they know but whose name they can’t quite pull out of the hat. In Glenna’s case, she might make some think of Iris Dement, for others it might be a Mary Gauthier, or even a Janis Joplin. Who knows? All I can tell you for sure is that this album is not like the last album you listened to, no matter what that may have been. Face This World deserves to be heard. Give it a listen.

Sam Houston - RAM Radio (Aug, 2006)

In a time when it's getting hard to tell Nashville and Austin apart, in walks Glenna Bell. It's all real, it's all original, all fresh, and all good music. An outstanding voice and one like I've never heard. Her music is folk, country, it’s cowjazz. A good cd, a great act, ladies and gentlemen this is Glenna Bell.

GLENNA BELL is truly a rare artist. It isn’t very often that words can just pour out so easily to describe such music that almost brings us to serious tears (and pretty near did just that during the show). At the same time, we are fearful that our words could never do justice to such beauty and brilliance. Please do us a favour, go to Glenna’s web site, listen to a few tracks, and decide for yourself. Once you’ve decided, you should have her CD in your hand to listen to for an Eternity. Then we can all die happy when that eventual day comes.

Album Review For me and many colleagues, CD Baby is a gift from heaven because it offers a very mixed selection of different music trends, and what makes it so interesting is the opportunity to listen to many songs partially. In this way you can discern a lot because, let's be honest, in the Americana, alt. country, roots/rock world there is material which should never leave the studios. But once in a while something rises up and 2005 just began with Face This World from the for-me unknown Glenna Bell. I hold a jewel in my hands. This Texan beauty (born in Beaumont) was strongly influenced by acappella songs in the local church and the old style country albums of her own collection. That is why she preferred to record her songs at the famous Sugar Hill Studios to get that specific sound. Together with producer John Evans (Texan singer/ songwriter) who had his band accompany Glenna and who also sings two wonderful duets with Glenna, they succeeded very well with this album. Apparently there are earlier recordings from Glenna Bell, but this is the first album that got our attention. With 10 original songs and with the help of Chris Masterson (the Jack Ingram band) on lead guitar and Brian Thomas (the Jesse Dayton band) on banjo, Glenna has created a very eclectic masterpiece. This beautiful child has a different sort of voice that reminds me of Mary Gauthier, Iris Dement, Gillian Welch. Glenna Bell's sound is modern Americana in the truest sense. It is a unique blend of country roots music, romantic urban culture lyrics, and Texas folk rock; all sung in a voice that is powerful yet somehow vulnerable. More beautiful than Face This World is not possible. The album keeps you fascinated from the opening title track (Face This World) until the surprise ending track, Cosmo's Cafe. Beautiful songs with guitar solos are Hoping I Could Be Wrong and the up-tempo Poor Girl which is somewhat like J. Cash and somewhat like our Guido Belcanto, should he do something nice. March to Me and Could've Been My Friend are songs that give me goose flesh, pure acoustic Texan folk that places Glenna at the level of the best singer/songwriters. In the song John the drum roll makes its mark. Here In Texas, again with pretty guitars and banjo added, is a nice surprise. The two duets with John Evans--Tumbling Down and Moving On--are a statement of Dan Workman's words. (Dan is president of Sugar Hill Studios): Glenna Bell is the Loretta Lynn of Texas. No, that's not right, . . . she's better. Good luck, Glenna. I love this record!!!!

Music critic, Roger Wood, author of "Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues" (University of Texas Press), says, "Glenna Bell's distinctive voice sounds as southern and as worldly, as down home and as smart, as Houston itself - the perfect complement to this set of finely crafted original songs." Sarah Sharp, Austin-based singer songwriter whose Fourth Person (2004) is a top seller at Waterloo Records, writes, "John [Evans] just produced an album for Glenna Bell that is going to be legendary. Glenna is one of the purist musicians I will ever know. Her voice is the definition of an old soul. She gives the same performance for 10 people that she would for 10,000 because there is no ego attached." (www.sarahsharp.com) Peter Pallas, owner of Cosmos Cafe in Houston, Texas, states, "Glenna Bell's emergence in the Texas music scene is reminiscent of Norah Jones' explosion a couple of years ago. Her ageless style imparts real life to music." Singer-songwriter, Hayes Carll, says, "Glenna has one of the most unique voices in country music today."

(2006)

Q&A's

5 minutes with Country Music Artist Glenna Bell

 

About your career

Q:  What is your fondest musical memory?

A:  I noticed right away that these questions really make one have to think, which is constructive, but there are so many memories, highlights, etc. it seems impossible to choose just one—sort of like asking someone which child is your favourite? 

What comes to mind off the top of my head is two musical memories from my early years when we lived in East Texas in Lumberton, near the Big Thicket, and we would sing a cappella as a congregation in the little church in the woods and when we would visit my mother’s side of the family in Orange, Texas in the Golden Triangle near Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin, where we would sing at family gatherings with generations of relatives playing popular and occasionally original songs on the piano, representing the pop culture of their respective eras, dating all the way back to the twenties.

 

Q:  What has been the highlight of your career?

A:  Thankfully, there have been many highlights, but one that comes to mind is receiving the House Resolution honouring my musical contribution to the State of Texas at the Texas state capital in Austin.

A more recent highlight would be the day that I spent in the studio with John Pickering who sang the backing vocals on several Buddy Holly hits and our lunch with Sonny West (who wrote “Oh Boy” and “Rave On”) at the little Mexican restaurant on legendary Telephone Road here in Houston.  There’s also the time I played Threadgill’s in Austin to a crowd who compared me to Janis Joplin as they remembered her performances there in the early-to-mid ‘60s and the Johnny Cash Bash at the Continental Club in Austin with Johnny Cash’s long-time piano player Earl Poole Ball accompanying me in an impromptu version of “Get Rhythm” in front of a packed house with standing room only and hundreds of Johnny Cash fans dressed in black, lined up around the corner outside the front door on Congress.  There are the memories of playing here and there and everywhere, New York and Nashville, with people I knew and didn’t know at all.  The on going shows with Greg Henkel on his incredible vio-fiddle.  The record store, Bill’s, in Dallas.  Cosmos Café in Houston.  Y’all come!  There is no place like home.  

 

Q:  Your latest album ‘Lone Star: Songs and Stories Straight from the Heart of Texas’ has recently been released. Which song from the album means the most to you and why?

A:  I’d say “Pig in Lipstick Blues” means the most to me at the moment because I’ve caught a bad case of the blues, and that song showed me that, yes, I can “bring it” both as a writer and singer.

 

Q:  Do you ever get nervous before you go on stage?

A:  No, I just “wing it.”  Live in the moment.  Be yourself.  Forget about yourself.  You’re there for the audience.  Not yourself.  Lift them up.

 

Q:  What piece of advice can you give to aspiring country music artists?

A:  Read.  Read real books, not online.  Listen to “old music,” preferably on a record player.  Get unhooked.  Be in Nature as much as possible with no distractions.  Write.  Listen to the music of the birds and the breeze in the trees.  Lie down alone in a field of grass and star gaze or watch the clouds go by in the sky.  Dream.  Find your voice.  Give yourself time.  Get in touch with something beyond this material world.  Be willing to stretch and try new things within the limits of your sense of ethics and morality.  Always listen to your deep inner voice.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything that would go against your personal or artistic convictions.  Learn to know yourself and don’t compromise yourself or your art.  Stay humble and authentic.  Don’t try to take shortcuts to success—you will undermine everything.  Build your house on a rock.  Think long term and do what it takes to set things up for longevity so that you can continue to do what you love for a lifetime.  Accept criticism gracefully but learn who and who not to listen to.  Some people are well meaning and very convincing because of their credentials and years in the business, but they don’t know.  Stop and help a stray dog.  Help a young person.  Help an old person.  Help a homeless person.  Make yourself a helping person and you will then know the joy of giving, which is the key to performance.  Be open-minded.  Don’t stereotype people.  It is a huge mistake.  Don’t be an artist unless you just cannot not be.  Don’t do it for the money.  Most likely, you will be very disappointed in the end.  Endure. 

 

And just for fun…

Q:  If you could sing a duet with any country artist in the world (past or present) who would it be? 

A:  George Jones

 

Q:  Pick a song title for the story of your life…

A:  Moon River

 

Q:  You have the chance to time travel to any gig or concert that has ever taken place – which one would it be?  

A:  Newport Folk Festival, 1965

 

Q:  What was the first record you ever bought?

A:  My very earliest recollection of “buying” records was when I was so young that I can’t even recall the first one.  I even called my mother but she can’t remember either.  I know that it was at the mall in Beaumont, Texas and that it could have been “The Entertainer” or “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr.  Maybe John Denver’s “Country Boy.”  Through my dad’s record collection I discovered The Gunfighter Ballads and through my Auntie’s collection I learned to love and laugh, dance and sing with my little sister to songs like “Sugar Time,” “Charlie Brown,” and “Short People.”  I also loved the story songs like “Please Pass the Biscuits” and Andy Griffith’s comedic monologue, “What It Was Was Football.”  When I l was older I was profoundly affected by George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart.”  

 

Q:  Tell us something that will surprise us?

A:  I recently found out that I have had about 700,000 streams on Spotify for the last two consecutive seasons for my holiday song, “Be My Valentine (On Christmas).”  As an independent artist, this news came as a surprise to me.

It’s Sunday night in New York City, early December, and between the usual holiday festivities and the general pre-workweek malaise that tend to sap the populace’s energy, it’s not the best evening to be making your Gotham debut. But on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, the Living Room, one of the city’s finest singer-songwriter showcase venues, the room is about half full. If it’s Monday through Saturday, it’s half empty; but on Sunday night, it’s half full. That’s pretty good for an impressive singer-songwriter with a country bent whose fourth album, the provocatively titled Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder, is newly released, but who is virtually unknown in these parts. Her band is not a touring band, but rather a trio (guitar/dobro, bass and drums) assembled by bassist Jeff Eyerich—who is well known and well respected in these parts for his various associations with interesting bands such as Dave’s True Story—and some the folks on hand are doubtless of the FOB (Friends Of the Band) variety. Still, there have to be others drawn here by having heard Glenna Bell’s stark, dramatic tales of the search for love in all its manifestations, and now want to see the artist who created such a striking body of work.

Read more at http://www.thebluegrassspecial.com/archive/2011/jan2011/glenna-bell-perfectly-legal.php

Glenna Bell seems to have stepped out of another time. Her resonant voice and thoughtful, nuanced words lend her music a refreshing, yet timeless quality that few alt country performers can boast these days. With her roots planted firmly in the rural Texas locale that gave us George Jones and Janis Joplin, she told us how she connects with some classic American folk songs while trying to write a few of her own.

This former rodeo gal turned academic, studied at Texas A&M University, and at the University of Houston, where Edward Albee taught her to write plays. Her 2010 album is called Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder.

Read more at http://www.songfacts.com/blog/writing/glenna_bell/

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