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A diverse Americana artist with jazz influences, Lisa Bell shifts gears with her fifth release, Back Seat. It’s the most potent album of the singer/songwriter’s career, nodding to the influences that have helped sharpen her own sound — including laidback R&B, melodic soul, and American roots music — while also pushing into contemporary, Triple A-friendly territory.
A graduate of the University of Missouri’s Conservatory of Music, Bell sings with a powerful, natural voice. Gluing the mix together in her newest album are Bell’s expressive voice and ever-evolving writing chops, which combine to tell the story of an empty nester who, having spent years raising her children, is ready to climb back into the driver’s seat and chase down new dreams.
Lisa launched her music career nearly 20 years ago, steadily transforming from a jazz standards singer into an eclectic, seasoned musician who co-wrote her own songs and shared shows with headliners like Stanley Jordan, Christopher Cross, and Oleta Adams. It had been a creative career, but she was ready for a change. Writing without collaborators for the first time, she began piecing together a new batch of songs that modernized her sound while still honoring her bluesy, jazzy bedrock. Bell wasn’t just chasing the muse this time; she was proving to the world — and, perhaps, to herself, as well — that she wasn’t finished with her musical journey. After four albums and countless performances, she still had something compelling to say.
Perhaps most importantly, Back Seat tells a story that reaches beyond Bell’s own experience. There are deep, mature love songs here — songs that examine human relationships not from the perspective of starry-eyed newlyweds, but of lovers who’ve ridden the rollercoaster of a long, emotional partnership together. There are worldly songs, too, with “India”— recorded in part at Colorado’s eclectic The TANK Center for Sonic Arts — recounting Bell’s eye-opening and transformational journey to the magical country. A nature theme runs throughout the album, as well, thanks not only to the remote cabin in which Bell wrote the songs, but also to the ambient sounds of Colorado’s wilderness — including rain, rivers, bird calls, and more — that she recorded with help from her son, Brendan Bell. A rising star in the world of “chill” EDM, Brendan (AKA DJ Covex) also appears on “I Can’t Stand the Rain”and “India,” adding ambience and atmospheric sounds to the tracks.
“When you reach middle age and it’s ’empty nester’ time, you have an opportunity to recapture whatever dreams you might’ve left behind,” Bell explains. “That’s the focus of Back Seat. My son is just beginning with his music career, but I’m not close to being done with mine. I’m finding my own voice and my own style of writing, rather than being heavily influenced by others. And I’m happy to be behind the wheel again.”
Latest Reviews—Back Seat
Americana by definition, jazz-inflected by class, Colorado’s roots singer-songwriter Lisa Bell repossesses her own imaginations and drive for a music careerwhile it’s been six years since her last full-length, her craft has only burned stronger and brighter and braver. 12 songs were born out of a secluded trip to a backwoods cabin; with producer Evan Reeves, Bell peels back layers of her voice like an onion newly uncovered from the earth. She’s flavorful but unpolished enough to crack and let the character dazzle the edges.
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