FAME Review: Glenna Bell - Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love, and Murder
Glenna Bell - Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love, and Murder

Perfectly Legal:
Songs of Sex, Love,
and Murder

Glenna Bell

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

With such a title, evocative of parameter passions (okay, we could drop the "Love" and be even more raw edged, but…), you'd expect something a bit unusual, and you get it in Glenna Bell, who recorded this CD in 'four acts' (a quartet of studios), working up and down from a cappella solo to a quintet, her oft quavery voice always the center of attention, a bit of Buffy Saint Marie to her. 'Raw' might be the best adjective to apply to Ms. Bell's work, 'cause she walks a dirt road with a beer in one hand, a tear in the eye, and longing on her sleeve.

This is about as basic as such roots musics get, traveling back to the days of the Weavers and others, where a fire gone to embers and the need to expiate and pine provoked the passionate heart to open up and speak, no matter where it resided, high class, sod poor, or questionably comfortable. Our grandparents understood this kind of thing well, Bell's digging in the cellar and unearthing their times, their 'tude. And attitude has a lot to do here, as Glenna holds little back, determined to speak/sing her part and have it known.

Appropriately, the recording's a tad rough so that nothing is ever mistaken as bourgeois, a set of paeans to the destiny of the heart, the hands, the mind, and the teeming masses in their Everyman/woman days. Hurricane, one of her own compositions, is particularly wrenching, the case of a woman who once again mistook her lover, who gave her 'fair warning', and ended up in heartbreak and misery. It's a song worthy of Kristofferson and pulls at the inner recesses more than a little, the refrain "I've slipped under again" hitting the ear with an all-too-familiar impact. Scott Davis' guitar work carries strong overtones of Ry Cooder, adding both ache and majesty to the cut.

It's the fact that, in all her compositions, Bell stands herself and kindred spirits naked—The Southern Gothic Wedding Waltz companions Hurricane like a dire double-header of ancient tradition and decadence written by Poe by way of Erskine Caldwell—and forces the listener to sit down and pay attention. What tunnels down the Eustachian tubes ends up in the very bottom of the pit of the stomach just athwart a rapidly sinking heart. On the other hand, The Cougar Anthem, exactly what you think it is, will have various horn dawgs and dawgettes pondering what Hurricane 's narrator was really after and perhaps that it just might be possible after all, albeit with a goodly portion of that backroom darkness otherwise so prevalent. In short, Perfectly Legal will affect you in ways you weren't expecting.

Track List:

  • Frankie & Johnny (traditional)
  • Lost and Lookin' (Jordan / Alexander)
  • These Days (Glenna Bell)
  • Honky-Tonk (Dewayne Blackwell)
  • Big Rev (Glenna Bell)
  • Hurricane (Glenna Bell)
  • The Southern Gothic Wedding Waltz (Glenna Bell)
  • The Cougar Anthem (Glenna Bell)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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