Romantics and Mystics
Bell, Steve, Anglican Journal
Signpost / Peg Music
OVER THE SPAN of four albums, Winnipeg-based Steve Bell has won several fans with his tunefully poppy folk music - music which has concentrated on paraphrases of Scripture.
That being said, Bell has severely pressed the limits of a finite fan base. Artists who release contemporary Christian material have limited their market scope by definition. Those who do so within Canada have an even smaller potential audience. An added dilemma, if one could call it that, is that Bell has tended to avoid the fundamentalist bent of much contemporary Christian music, sticking instead to Scripture paraphrases and more classical explorations of Christian spirituality.
The fact that Bell's music could potentially reach more people with a few market concessions was driven home this past year when Gord Johnson, a gifted but of clearly lesser talent as singer, player, and arranger, had multi-format success on Bell's Signpost label with his debut album, Stubble and Hay.
Bell has, therefore, reached out to the secular market with his new disc, Romantics & Mystics. While again self-released on Signpost, it is getting wider secular distribution on the Peg label. The success of the strategy, like the album itself, might be a mixed bag.
The overall sound of Bell's new album is reminiscent of the folk pop of his wonderful 1994 album, Burning Ember.
The real departures for people who have come to love Bell's music over the past 10 years are secular pop songs. These tracks all seem to have a shot of country spice added to his normal folk pop sound for extra adult contemporary market potential.
The themes of the secular pieces are wholesome enough. Alone Tonight expresses Bell's heartfelt desire to be back home with his wife after a long tour, while Let's Do It Again is his ode to his long-time spouse. …