The first time I heard Lurrie Bell play "Don't Lie To Me" was with Nick Moss & The Flip Tops for Live at Chan's: Combo Platter No. 2. He also performed it at Delmark Records' 55th birthday bash at Buddy Guy's club Legends in Chicago. That performance is one of the highlights of the evening, which was captured on CD and DVD.
The song is a blues staple that's been performed by Albert and B.B. King as well as The Rolling Stones and countless others, but I hear something special in the way Bell performs it regardless of who is performing it with him. While that's true, it's not the whole truth. There's something special about Lurrie Bell and just about any song — famous or obscure, original or borrowed — is imbued with something special when Lurrie plays it.
When Moss brought Bell on stage, he gave a heartfelt welcome to a man he considers a mentor, "Since I was 16-years old, I've never seen anyone do it better." The blues is a music of giants and many of the titans made their name in Chicago. There are too many legends to name an ultimate champion but Moss is right: Lurrie Bell takes a backseat to no one.
One of the things I love about Bell's approach to playing — and it's heard in both recent live versions of this song — is his timing. He has a different concept of "the beat" than many other blues players and one startlingly different than musicians in other genres. In a lot of prog rock and jazz, "the beat" almost feels like the solution to a complex mathematical expression and there's nothing wrong with precision in musical composition or performance. The ability to lock in that telepathically with other musicians is admirable and amazing.
Bell's concept of the beat feels different. The beat isn't an exact location in time in a piece of music but is more like a bullseye target and landing anywhere inside the red circle is on time. Bell isn't out of time yet he plays and sometimes sings a perceptible but insignificant click off the precise beat whether he's playing with Flip Top stickman Bob Carter or Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith.
Lurrie Bell has had a lot of great nights in the clubs of Chicago and once again someone was there to capture it on film and tape for Delmark. This is one hell of a party favor.