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Texas born and bred (she’s a native of Beaumont and grew up in Lumberton and Pineland), Bell has some impressive credentials. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Houston’s renowned Creative Writing Program and studied with three-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee, who directed her dissertation. As well, in 2007 the Texas House of Representatives honored her in a House Resolution for her musical contributions to the state. She again avoids modern country clichés on her fifth LP, and first since 2010’s Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder. On most of Lone Star’s numbers, she prefers a stripped-down, two-guitar approach, often with producer Mark Abernathy acting as her back-up axeman. This allows her tender, tremolo-tinged trill and laid-on-the-line lyrics to shine, as on the assertive “Poor Girl (in Blue),” affectionate, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle-lauding “Shiner Bock & ZZ Top (Houston Avenue),” and amorous “Tonight’s the Night (We Graduate).” On the latter, about a smitten high school student summoning up the courage to express her feelings to a college-bound classmate, she even namechecks my alma mater, Penn State!
Bell’s sincere singing also strengthens comforting covers of Keane’s 2004 UK #4 “Everybody’s Changing” (on which she managed to wheedle its writer, Keane founder/singer Tim Rice-Oxley, to provide pretty piano and harmonium!) and Don Henley’s 1989 “Heart of the Matter” (from his third album, The End of the Innocence), whose forlorn words about a faded romance are given added gravitas by Mike Hardwick’s somber steel guitar. Those two fit flawlessly with fetching originals like the foreboding “Christmas is Coming” – a follow-up to her 2008, one million-streamed Spotify hit “Be My Valentine (on Christmas)” – and her playful paean to a Houston comedy troupe, “What It Was Was The Art Guys.” (glennabell.com)
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