Reviews . . .
“A concept record of sorts, Texan songwriter Glenna Bell’s Perfectly Legal is presented in four “acts,” (divided by recording session and overall sound) with a common theme of, as the subtitle suggests, gothic shenanigans in the old South. The album opens with her take on the old stand-by “Frankie and Johnny” rendered as an intriguing hybrid of boogie-woogie and folk, followed by a haunting a capella version of Sam Cooke’s “Lost and Lookin’” that is all bare emotion and tremulous voice. Bell’s fiery originals round out the album and are given simple country-folk settings that capture her live sound well. Bell’s voice is pure barrel-proof bourbon, sweet and smoky, capable of hushed drama (“Hurricane”) and more ringing tones as well. She flashes girlish, Dolly Parton charm on “Honky Tonk Man,” a duet with John Evans, and rockabilly grit on “Big Kev.” Bell clearly has a sense of humor but doesn’t let it tip over into novelty. Case in point, the feisty “Cougar Anthem”: with its mischievous call-and-response chorus and cheerfully leering lyrics, it could be mistaken for a topical joke, but there’s no mistaking the pride in Bell’s voice when she says, “I’ve got my own money, and I’ve got my own car.” Fans of classic country music will find much to appreciate here.” - Paula Carino
“It may be tempting to dub Glenna Bell the distaff Terry Allen -- after all, she is a Texan country-folk singer/songwriter with a wry, satirical bent who has also worked in theater -- but that comparison would be too easy, and not entirely accurate. While Allen is a songsmith who happened to wander into theatrical work, Bell's trajectory seems to have been the opposite; though she's released a number of albums, she has a past as a playwright and a theater critic, which seems to inform her songwriting sensibility (this release is, after all, dedicated to "my mentor, Edward Albee"). Toward that end, she has framed sections of Perfectly Legal as "Acts." As is so often the case with concept albums, the thematic arc means as much or as little as you want it to mean. Ultimately, what matters is how well the songs themselves stand up, and the covers and original tunes contained here hold their own just fine. At eight songs clocking in under a half hour, Perfectly Legal pushes the technical definition of an "album," as opposed to an EP, but the dramatic arc to which it aspires has "full-length" written all over it nevertheless. In the course of that arc, listeners get Bell's versions of such tunes as the traditional "Frankie and Johnny" and the old Sam Cooke cut "Lost and Lookin'," delivered in a dusty, evocative tone that brings Rosalie Sorrels to mind. The Texan's own tunes range from the rolling, atmospheric "Hurricane"'s tale of a stormy romance to the stark storytelling of "The Southern Gothic Wedding Waltz" and the lighthearted, randy "The Cougar Anthem.” - James Allen
“Glenna Bell is Texas born, bred, and educated. She grew-up in the small Texas towns of Lumberton and Pineland before receiving a master’s degree from Texas A&M University. A couple of stops in Venice, California as a theater critic and playwright and then a doctorate in creative writing from The University of Houston's exclusive Writing Program formed the foundation for her career in music.She is now firmly entrenched as a singer/songwriter who has just released her latest album Perfectly Legal: Songs Of Sex, Love and Murder. She possesses a classic country voice and her lyrics of anguish, loss, and the dark side of life is traditional country as well. It is her simple and stripped down arrangements that push her sound in a folk direction.It is her theater and writing background that is important for this release. She explores the life and experiences of a woman living in the 21st century. She divides the album into four sections with each part having been recorded at different studios with different musicians which gives them their own personality.The best songs of the first act is a barrelhouse cover of the old standard “Frankie and Johnny” which fits the title and themes of this album well and a simple version of the Sam Cooke classic “Lost and Lookin.” Act two features a tender duet on the Clint Eastwood movie theme song, “Honky Tonk Man.” The lyrics just make you ache as happiness is always just a note away. Act three presents her own “The Southern Gothic Wedding Waltz” and the title says a lot. She fills in the sound a bit with a second guitarist and some keyboards. The final track from act four is another of her compositions. “The Cougar Anthem” is an up-tempo and amusing beat driven tune that stands out as a nice counterpoint to the rest of her material.Perfectly Legal: Songs Of Sex, Love and Murder is a gentle and thoughtful album built around eternal themes. Songs of the heart and mind explore the light and darkness of human life. A fine effort from deep in the heart of Texas.” - David Bowling
“This song [These Days] tells the story of a girl, "very long ago, in a fairy book world" and a man she holds a dream-like affection for, always admiring him from afar. The girl in the song "believed in dreams" so the man visited her there, but never in reality. And the girl waits. Waits for years.In our interview with Glenna Bell, she revealed that the song was written about her aunt, a woman who inspired Glenna with stories of her life, with her powerful voice and music. After 81 years of life, Glenna's aunt passed away, and tucked into the folds of her purse was a black and white photo of a lover lost long, long ago. Glenna was moved by her aunt's unending affection for this man and her quiet longing. "These Days" was written for her aunt and her grief.It was in the wake of her aunt's death that Glenna Bell turned to music to navigate the world of sadness that the loss had created in the Golden Triangle of East Texas where both women were born. "These Days" is an understated track on Glenna's album Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder, yet cuts right to the heart. The empathy the song is sung with, the rich tones of sadness and the love evident in every careful phrasing makes this song a particularly special listening experience for anyone who ever missed someone.” - Maggie Grimason
“USA Today named "The Cougar Anthem" a top ten pick of the week on November 8, 2010, alongside songs by Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Norah Jones, Aaron Neville, Dave Brubeck, Meatloaf, and others: “‘He's 19 years old and hot hot hot’ and makes this of-a-certain-age Texas blues/country singer pine for an upgrade.’”” - Jerry Shriver