From Laramie, Wyo., to Austin, Texas, to New Orleans, and now in Nashville, singer and songwriter Luke Bell has touched down in several of the most musically inspiring parts of the country en route to a nascent career that earned him a spot early in the day Saturday at the 2016 Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio.
His sound is raw and energetic, rooted in country tradition with a strong dose of the literate facet of the folk tradition -- with a dash of Western yodeling dropped in just for fun.
“There was a guy in Laramie that started kind of a small folk scene,” Bell said a few minutes after his set on the Palomino stage. From Indio, he’s heading to Los Angeles for a performance Sunday night at the Echo, in Echo Park.
“I was listening to people like John Prine,” he said, “then I moved to Austin for a couple of years and got into the Texas Tornadoes and that scene. Then I went to New Orleans. I was only there for about six months. I was living in a molding trailer tha smelled of bleach in the Lower 9th Ward. It was tough.”
Since moving to Nashville, Bell has been touring regularly as a solo act, and is gearing up for the June 17 release of his self-titled album.
He said he hasn’t been a part of Nashville’s songwriter community -- ”I’m kind of reclusive,” he said with a sheepish smile -- but “I’m just trying to get my songs better and better.”
One of the album’s songs that’s generating some attention is “Sometimes,” highlighted recently by NPR Music. It’s a bittersweet farewell to a love that didn’t pan out, sharing some of the razor wit on which Texas songwriter Hayes Carll has built his career:
She was my watermelon woman
My cornbread queen
I met the gal when she was just 19, ooh whee buddy, she’s a sight to see
We stayed out all night and fought like dogs
We drank like fish and loved like hogs
What a trifle of a life, for a man to lead, all right
As for the yodeling, Bell acknowledged his debt to fellow Wyomingite, Western singer and songwriter Wylie Gustafson, whose voice has been heard around the planet as the singer of the “Yahoo” search engine yodel.
“I bought a book and CD of his to learn how to yodel,” he said.
A female festival-goer who’d caught his set stopped while he was talking to a reporter to compliment him. “I don’t usually go much for yodeling,” she said, “but you did it great.”
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