Live Review: Lisa Bell at Rockwood Music Hall in New York, NY

Material: In town to promote her fifth album release, Back Seat, Colorado-based artist Lisa Bell dove right in to her new collection of Americana, R&B/soul-based songs. After years of raising children, Bell is pursuing the music career that she temporarily put on hold. Embarking on a new chapter, she embraces feelings about time passing, dreams deferred, renewed dreams and the changing nature of relationships.

The title track “Back Seat” sets the tone for the show: I’m not willing to take a back seat/while that dream’s passed me by/while the times of obligation it kept me safe here for some time/I find all the inspiration that I haven’t seen for miles/was giving me directions from the back seat all the while. In “I Don’t Know What You Want From Me,” a more haunting, bluesy number, Bell questions the status of a relationship: Through the years the expectation never ceases to amaze…I don’t know what you want from me/I try to let it be/ it’s time to set me free/cause I don’t know what you want from me.

Musicianship: Bell, currently exploring more of her rootsy side, also references a warm jazz sound, the genre in which her career originated. She has power in her voice, but does not exploit it, a common pitfall when those tools are at your disposal. She employs a backing instrumental duo, comprised of fellow Colorado musicians, who create a solid enough background for her vocals. She enlists guitarist Chris Daniels, for a solo, a good way to infuse variety into the mix.

Performance: While Bell’s presentation was inviting, at the top of the set, she announced that she wasn’t going to speak, just sing. Audiences are excited to learn more about the human side of an artist beyond what the song can tell them, (since you can’t assume the song is necessarily about the artist per se), whether it’s any relevant backstory, an off-handed quip or an observation. This can only serve to strengthen the relationship between the audience and the performer. To her credit, Bell did maximize her time on stage, and from a musical standpoint the songs hung together.

Summary: It is empowering to witness someone reinvent herself while hanging on to her dreams; however, audiences want to share in that experience more fully. Bell might take extra time to address her narrative by not solely depending on the song’s content.

Contact: [email protected]

Web: lisabellmusic.com

Players: Lisa Bell, vocals; Chris Daniels, guitar; Ani Azoto, bass