Jack Of All Trades...
Clearly no stranger to the scene, multi-instrumentalist and seasoned blues rocker Jeff Bell delivers album number five, which sees him continuing to walk his own path and deliver another stark insight into his world, past and present. Whether drenched in acoustic melancholy or riotously raucous in all its low down and dirty blues rock attitude, his previous work was delivered to great effect. More recent output has seen Jeff incorporate new sounds and instruments, experimenting with new ideas without straying too far from his own identity as a musician.
Two thirds of Rome sticks fairly closely to Jeff's traditional output; Bite The Dog and Damn You are satisfying slithers of scuzzy blues rock, whilst the slower tempo melancholia of Naked and Only A Footstep Away deliver an air of Nick Cave's delicately morose crooning, although sadly without the lyrical strength that makes the Aussie legend so untouchable. The trumpet that can be heard now and then is a nice touch; at least it would have been if it didn't sound entirely synthetic, Jeff opting here for keyboard effects over the real thing.
Some of the lyrical content is handled with all the artistic subtlety of a Turner Prize entrant, but upon repeated listens, Jeff's honesty and good ol' down-to-earth soul-infected blues is exactly what shines the brightest. When his soul is on display, the sparkle in his eye is discernible. When he moves away from his more personal work and attempts a song about something else, the inspiration wheezes away like a dying balloon. As the album progresses, a lot of the material starts to sound somewhat redundant, with the unnatural keyboard effects lowering the overall effect of what Jeff has created here. The album thankfully ends on a high note, with Everything and the sleepy banjo-infused ballad of Another Day uplifting in all their honesty.
Rome is forty-five minutes of spit 'n sawdust blues rock and down-tempo acoustic rumination; an enjoyable journey for the most part, complimented by Jeff's gravelly vocals. Some of the ideas begin to drive the music towards tiresome at times and he really needs to upgrade his keyboard (or perhaps get in some real musicians for the substituted instruments), but the great start and finish to the album cements it as one of his most accomplished to-date.