Where the Good Way Lies
By Steve Bell
Signpost Music, 2016
We were not previously familiar with the music of Canadian singer/songwriter Steve Bell; but we are ever so pleased to make his musical acquaintance now. Indeed, his new CD, Where the Good Way Lies, which is his 20th album, is like meeting an old friend. These 13 tracks are songs about hope and love—gentle, poetic and intelligent, they are full of ideas. And, as Bell says, “That’s the way it is with songs…they often seem to know more than those who wrote them.”
Consider “Love Song”: at first blush, this song (written by Bruce Cockburn) may be about the love between two human beings. But, to this listener, it spoke of our love for the divine: “In the place my wonder comes from / There I find you…When you be beside me / I am real… Though my eyes be closed forever / Still I would find you.” The devotional interpretation of those words presents God as our true kindred spirit, one with whom we have a close and tangible connection.
Positing such big ideas with such elegantly simple turns of phrase, these songs (two of which are instrumentals) somehow manage to speak to us about knowing and loving God without didacticism or overweening religiosity. Quite the contrary: these songs make the divine as natural (and as accessible) as life itself, even as they express deep ideas—like the co-existence of beauty and suffering, even when (as for the aging), “life is like a faded leaf.” Sometimes, the words of others (including Augustine, 19th- century poet Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rainer Maria Rilke and a contemporary Anglican minister) are the inspiration for the lyrics. One song was inspired by Psalm 62: with its words about refuge and hope, it was penned on the very day the first group of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada in 2016.
Here, then, are musical prayers—bright, fresh and insightful, without ever being preachy, saccharine or overbearing. Sometimes stirring, sometimes poignant, always quite lovely, these songs speak to the soul’s great longing, and to that which gives it sustenance: “The only thing left for us to do is love…And as we love the other, God abides in us / God unseen / Seen in love.”
John Arkelian is an award-winning author and journalist. Copyright © 2017 by John Arkelian.