Luke Bell’s rough-hewn debut album moves seamlessly through shuffling honky-tonk, Western ballads and high-steppin’ bluegrass, but the depth and breadth of influences on the former Wyoming ranch hand with the full-throated baritone take perhaps their most unexpected turn as Bell turns a tear-jerking modern pop classic into a plaintive mountain ballad.
John Lennon’s 1971 LP Imagine contained not only the title plea for peace at a time when the Vietnam War was raging – it also featured visceral remnants of Lennon’s resentment toward his fellow former Beatle and songwriting partner Paul McCartney. But Lennon’s more insecure, introspective side was perhaps best captured in “Jealous Guy,” a song which had its origins in a Beatles-era tune called “Child of Nature.” As “Jealous Guy,” it was the perfect expression of Lennon’s vulnerabilities, and after his assassination in December 1980, “Jealous Guy” would top the U.K. singles chart in a version by Britain’s Roxy Music. Others who have since recorded it include American soul singer Donny Hathaway, Irish rock band Aslan and Belgian singer Roberto Bellarosa, who performed it in 2012 when he became the first winner of that country’s version of The Voice.
Seated on a porch and performing the song with simple acoustic guitar accompaniment, Bell also includes one of the more distinctive aspects of Lennon’s original: the whistled verse that still manages to wordlessly convey the tune’s emotional depth.
Bell plays the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas on Saturday, November 5th, with upcoming shows in Louisville, Chicago and more, later this month.