Steve Bell’s “kindness”: the thought behind the gift

How does a Christian craftsman consider Jesus? That’s the question even a secular listener might ask in approaching contemporary music that fits in the Gospel category.

It’s a question two-time Juno winner and multiple nominee Steve Bell answers on his new CD, kindness.

Steve Bell is more a singer-songwriter, than a gospel singer; nor is he one of those Bruce Springsteen / Don Henley influenced soul groaners that typify the modern religion-first songwriters.

On kindness, Bell is relaxed and charming and knows whereof he speaks. His metaphors and images aren’t full of clouds and fire and mountains; he writes of roads and fields, of laundry, and dancing.

He’s not a name-dropper either. You have to listen through to the last song, “Was It A Morning Like This?”, if you expect to hear about Mary, Peter and John. There’s one tune about Absalom, too, but no one ever writes about him anyway, so it’s allowed. Jesus himself gets name-checked only in the title song, “Kindness”: “Christ has no body here but ours”, Bell asserts.

Steve Bell seems to sidestep the abstract virtues of compassion, humility and charity that burst from the doctrinal texts and get to some hands-on lyrics about doing good consistently, rather than thinking good thoughts and performing random acts. You don’t have to think about it.

The songs are drifting, comfortable and produced with a level of loving care and lyrical ease that you would expect from Paul Simon or James Taylor. It is, after all Bell’s 16th album, with two Juno wins and a tour with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra behind him.

As love songs, the selections on kindness are fashioned on level that goes beyond mere affectionate sentiments. Maybe it’s the calmness of Bell’s voice, or the unhurried working-through of his thoughts that provide the listener with the opportunity to focus deeply on his subjects.

They are the mundane singer/songwriter topics —a funeral, where songs come from, love & loneliness, the occasional angel— melodiously phrased, with an exceptional control of assonance and alliteration and the sudden, stark, unexpected word of illumination.

Multi-disciplinary artist Gerry Atwell rides into the album’s cornerstone piece, “Stubble and Hay”, with a shower of raw roaring poetry that substitutes articulately for the rap verse that we now expect of pop music.

The restraint Steve Bell maintains throughout kindness makes this an unusual listening experience: there’s a forceful craftsmanship in his messages and in his lexicon, his attention to beauty in structuring and performance of the songs, and the directness of his voice.

Steve Bell’s faith does not float on the surface with banners flying and cannons blazing, but lies beneath, within the deep currents of kindness.

Like the thought behind a gift.

Paul Corby does an open format radio show on CKLN 88.1 FM out of Toronto every Friday from 11 a.m. til 2, called CORBY’s ORBIT.

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  1. avatar
    Lesley Marie 3 April, 2011 at 09:07

    I love… LOVE Steve Bell’s music, his harmonies kill me, his arrangements are amazing.. and that guy can play a mean guitar! I can’t wait to hear this new album, and I’m super excited to see that he’s at Hugh’s room soon 🙂

  2. avatar
    Paul Corby 3 April, 2011 at 12:20

    Before anyone else gets around to it, yes, Leonard Cohen and William Faulkner both wrote metaphorically about Absalom, but Steve has a different point of view in his questioning of David’s responsibility to his son.

  3. avatar
    Barbara 4 April, 2011 at 10:15

    Always thoroughly enjoy Steve’s music. I love the way he is able to create an atmosphere in his concerts that seems to envelop one in his songs, his stories and his life. Great Great Stuff!

  4. avatar
    Rory 4 April, 2011 at 11:57

    Saw one of his first concerts of the tour at Breakforth Edmonton. He’s put together a fresh selection of his material, reminding me of the days when I would lovingly record Beatles mixes from vinyl to tape. Picking the gems that were sometimes shadowed by the popularity of the hits. The new songs seemed to spring naturally from where they should, a deep meditative seeking of the God Steve loves and the acceptance of the wonder that couples it. New comfort food for the journey. Love ya Steve.

  5. avatar
    Dodi 5 April, 2011 at 13:48

    Love the album. But then have always loved Steve’s works. I really appreciate Absalom. Never gave him much thought before.

  6. avatar
    Michele 8 April, 2011 at 21:55

    “Kindness” is yet another wonderful album by an amazingly talented artist. Looking forward to hearing Steve in concert in Drayton Valley, Alberta on April 29th!

  7. avatar
    Jo 10 April, 2011 at 01:02

    Great fan of Steve. Two years in a row I’ve not been able to catch Steve’s concert in my own city. Recently in Calgary I squeezed in his concert while I was there for work. The concert at Center Street church was very enjoyable and soul refreshing for me. It felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend! I listen to kindness every day in my commute to work. (Calgarians showed me kindness on my way to the concert, and at the concert).

  8. avatar
    neelima 9 June, 2011 at 14:16

    I love Steve Bells new album..”Devotion”
    He gives beautiful insights to simple scripture…Love his sense of humor…and love his music….
    I feel a sense of peace when i listen to it…
    Missed his concert in calgary…;((

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