The Music Maker Relief Foundation has been a boon to practitioners of southern musical traditions which has enabled a number of individuals to gain recognition as performers and also meet their day to day needs including emergency medical and housing assistance, purchasing and repairing musical instruments, recording the performers and issuing the recordings, and presenting artists in concerts around the world.
Adolphus Bell, One Man Bell, is among recent releases by the Foundation and features the one-man band from Birmingham, Alabama. While born in Birmingham, he grew up in Pittsburgh where he learned guitar from George Benson. Frustrations from dealing with band members led him start playing as a one-man band, playing drums, harp and guitar while singing. Over the years of playing the streets he has developed a lively performance style as indicated on the opening The One Man Band, where he introduces the various members of the band.
Bell displays a fondness for a couple of songs associated with Bobby Bland including You Got to Hurt Before You Heal and the Bill Withers classic that is such a part of Bland’s live show, Ain’t No Sunshine, along with the vocal group classic, Cherry Pie, the Motown classic, (I Need Some) Money, and Sam Cooke’s Let the Good Times Roll. Other songs are originals like Ever Had the Blues and some topical numbers, Child Support Blues, Passport Blues and Black Man’s Dream. The latter number has a message that America better get things together or it is gonna be in for dark times.
Musically, Bell brings a soulful singing style mixed with some witty banter. His accompaniments often are simple and nicely delivered with a Jimmy Reed-flavored grooves. He adds some spare single note fills and takes some solos as well, mixing in some comments and replies as he performs. Despite the valuable documentation of a number of performers, I have found some Music Maker Foundation releases to be uneven. This however, is one of the better recent releases and its nice to have another one-man band to join such long-gone legends as Jesse Fuller, Dr. Ross and Juke Boy Bonner.
This may be in some stores, and cdbaby.com does offer many releases of artists of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. You can also obtain this from the Foundation’s website, www.musicmaker.org, which has full information on their mission and all of the marvelous recordings and books they offer. You will be getting some fine music and helping deserving artists.
This review appeared originally in the April 2006 DC Blues Calendar and April 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 282). I have made some minor editorial changes. I have been a long time supporter of the Music Maker Relief Foundation and likely received this in my capacity of a donor to the organization.