Blues and Soul music is not getting alot of respect these days. The Grammys removed those iconic and uniquely American genres from its live presentations a couple years back. That’s okay, I just have one question: What artist’s live performance stole the show at the 2017 Grammys and won the 2017 Americana Music Album of the Year? Answer: William Bell. The Blues legend William Bell who wrote “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and “Born Under a Bad Sign”? The legendary Stax soul singer? One and the same. Last night he proved why he is still the world’s greatest blues/soul/Americana or any other genre performer alive, period.
It would be a huge disservice to bring up age after Bell’s performance last night. The show wasn’t great for a man of his age (79 years young) because William Bell isn’t affected by age. This is not hyperbole, we have plenty of that in Americana Music circles these days. Whoever wrote the proverb “All things come to those who wait” must have had William Bell in mind. William Bell is reaching the zenith of his career these days not out of nostalgia or sentimentality, but because he is at the zenith of his abilites. As God is my witness this man hit every note, from a sustained high note during “I Forgot to be your Lover”?/Sam Cooke medley to his trademark Barry White baritone that punctuates many of his classics and causes the ladies to swoon, and hit every note in between. Bell’s dynamic performance in this intimate jazz club, (so intimate that the stage was practically crowded with his 8 piece band, that’s including his 2 back-up singers/dancers), was even more miraculous coming off his headline performance in front of a crowd in the tens of thousands at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN. Ever the consummate pro, not only did Bell and his crack band from his home in Atlanta, perform two shows at the dakota (I attended the late show) less than 24 hours later, they effortlessly mastered the dynamics of the jazz club, with Bell often holding the mic far from his mouth, filling the room with his unamplified voice, but also brought it down to where the band was playing so quiet you could hear a pin drop and that included the mesmerized audience in a dinner club, no small feat.