Steve Bell is a Christian music maker who is not famous. Well, in Canada he has a following, and he has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony, but because American Christian radio is all about the money (there, I said it!) it’s quite unfortunate that his name isn’t up there with Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin or Michael W. Smith.
I like calling Bell the “Canadian Eric Clapton.” As a guitar player and singer and songwriter, Bell does all three extremely well, and he puts his heart-and-soul into it. Thus, after 25 years of a solo career we finally get a multi-disc set highlighting music from the Canadian storyteller, aptly named Pilgrimage.
Partially funded through a kickstarter.com campaign, Pilgrimage is a gorgeous package that includes 4 discs of music as well as a thick booklet with pictures, song lyrics and a biographical essay about Bell’s music and ministry. A theological thinker/ponderer, Bell’s Pilgrimage often explores the richness of the Psalms, and as a songwriter he’s not afraid to do songs of lament. In other words, it’s not poppy bubblegum music.
Acoustic guitar fans will appreciate Steve Bell. Disc 1 contains 12 brand new songs centered on the theme of Lent. Disc 2 has 12 of Bell’s classic songs re-made with just his voice and guitar. Disc 3 is an interesting idea: it’s an album of other artists like Carolyn Arends and Jacob Moon covering Bell’s songs. And, finally, disc 4 takes 17 previously released songs, strips them of their vocals, and offers instrumental versions to highlight the musicality of Bell’s intricate compositions.
If you like music that’s both relaxing and challenging, Steve Bell is an artist you NEED to learn about; indeed, if you can, see the documentary Burning Ember, which chronicles his life, music and career– it’s superbly done, and you’ll learn a lot about who he is, where he’s from, and what he’s all about. Here’s a link to get connected. –Mark Weber, Christian Music Makers