High Art Formed in the Crucible of Life: Review by Carolyn Arends

October 1, 2020
INDEPENDENT REVIEW 
Album: Wouldn’t You Love To Know?
Steve Bell |Signpost Music 2020

by Carolyn Arends

It is not hyperbole to say that Steve Bell’s new recording project and companion book, “Wouldn’t You Love to Know,” is art of the highest order. If you’ll indulge me, I’d love to try to give words to why it is such an important offering.

I’ve always been fascinated by Dorothy Sayers’ Trinitarian model of creativity—her argument that “every work of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.” In the image of the Father, she says, comes the Creative Idea or Vision of a work—a concept or set of concepts worthy of careful consideration and deep exploration. But the Creative Idea needs Creative Energy, or Craft, to incarnate it, and this Creative Energy is in the image of the Son. Finally, she argues, the work must have Creative and Emotional Power—the ability to move both the artist and the one who receives the art such that they are both transformed by the exchange.

The songwriter who is all Creative Idea may make his listeners think, but he’s not likely to make them sing. The artist who is all Creative Energy may dazzle with wordplay, say, or guitar runs; the listener will likely be impressed but remain unchanged. The musician who is all Creative Power is likely to make his listener feel, but to what end?

Here’s the thing, Wouldn’t You Love to Know is a shimmering, pulsating example of the sort of work that can come into being when creative vision, astonishing craft, and emotional power formed in the crucible of life and loss come together.

The ideas in these songs and pages matter. How do we know the truth? Where is justice? What should we make of our suffering?

The craft is simply gorgeous. Listen to Steve’s deft guitar work on the first couple tracks, the way it bobs and weaves with the violins and banjo and percussion. Notice his poetry, the way he turns phrase after phrase, wooing with form until you’re undone by the content it carries.

And the power? It’s in the crack in Steve’s otherwise pristine vocal when he sings about the loss of his dad. It’s in the stout, wave-a-glass resolve in the opening lines of “The Home of Our God.” It’s in the way the swell of a steel guitar helps us bear “The Strange Blessing of Bearing.”

What I’m really trying to say is that, with Wouldn’t You Love to Know, Steve is offering us a work that is firing on all its cylinders. If you’re just looking for some music to get you through the night, it’s here in spades. But if you open yourself up to Wouldn’t You Love to Know’s vision, craft, and power, you’re likely to be changed by the morning.   

Carolyn Arends is an award-winning singer-songwriter, author and columnist. She is currently the Director of Education for Renovaré, a far-reaching organization that encourages and nurtures personal and spiritual renewal. 

Other Reviews:

A Walk Through Steve Bell’s Latest Album
– John Stackhouse | Faith Today Magazine)

A Songwriter’s Suite: Review of Steve Bell’s “Wouldn’t You Love to Know?”
– Kevin Belmonte | Independent Review

Prophetic Lyrics and New Creation hope in Steve Bell’s Latest Album
– Brian Walsh | Christian Courier Magazine

Bell, Steve – Wouldn’t You Love To Know?
– Michael Dalton | The Phantom Tollbooth

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