On The Edge 2016
Minimal but hard-hitting blues from Belfast’s best guitar slinger who still walks the walk.
Exile has two sides to it: whence and where to. For Eric Bell, though, a five-year sabbatical from recording studio has apparently been a time for soul-searching and, while "Lonely Nights In London" was tied to a point on the map, its follow-up’s theme is one of movement. Loath to burden himself with complexity when going the distance – be it from a lover or towards acceptance of life’s vagaries – the veteran keeps arrangements threadbare in places, down to an acoustic strum in the pensive, almost desperate “Exile,” playing everything but drums himself and sharpening the songs’ emotional impact.
With this sense of motion in its core, “Little Boy Running” is sent down memory lane as Bell conjures up – even vocally – the spirit of old, folk-minded THIN LIZZY to locate a young spirit inside himself, and brings things to a close with “Song For Gary,” a poignant, half-spoken recollection of Moore, his successor in that band. The record has a boisterous beginning, still, “Deep In Your Heart” digging its heels in with a muscular twang and powerful waves of slide – contrasted by a sarcasm in Eric’s voice and an overall cynical stance. It might take an unexpected turn of “Vote For Me” where affairs of the heart – bathed in the dewy-eyed croon and hazy strum in “Gotta Say Bye Bye” yet dry in the Stonesy scratch-and-sneer of “Don’t Love Me No More” – make way for political affairs and a heavy riff.
The menace is on the surface in the psyched-out funk of “Concrete Jungle,” but if the overall flow seems to be slow, there’s a cover of “Rip It Up” to kick things in a classic rockabilly style, filigree picking taking the merriment higher and higher. Bell reaches for the ultimate higher ground in “Thank God” in which the past and the present get woven into a continuous, stitched with bluesy lines, stretch of time, and the exile is nothing more than an observer’s position. A milestone on the artist’s road.