When you name your music group after a literary/ film character, in this case the lead from the movie adaptation of “Great Expectations”, you are probably suggesting that you share a common bond with said personality. Such is the case with Myrtle Beach/ Murrells Inlet folk rock duo, Finnegan Bell, who like their namesake have a story to tell filtered through their own unique viewpoints. On their new album, “I Was Gone”, Shane Williams tackles most of the main vocals and Warren Bazemore handles more of the lead guitar work; both play guitar in a singer-songwriter style influenced by Americana, country and folk rock. When the two sing together, there is a definite gospel influence evident and the listener can tell they have a wealth of experience at what they do, having played together for around 20 years, off and on in different incarnations.
The title track, light and gently flowing with a vocal style reminiscent of Ryan Adams, has some great vocal harmonies with a notable church influence. Adams seems to be the closest comparison I would make to Williams’ voice and I felt the similarities through several songs here. “Carolina Line” has a perfect chorus about coming home. With steel guitar and fiddles, it transcends folk to become almost modern radio-ready country; it’s a showcase of the duo’s ability to write contemporary hits. The country treatment of folk rock continues with “For a Dying Man”, pretty much taking on a country-rock semblance in the neighborhood of the Drive-By Truckers. The line “For a dying man/ I feel pretty good”, wouldn’t feel out of place on a Jason Isbell record. “Wait for You” has a soaring build up that ultimately creates some powerful folk rock while “Not My Lover” finds the duo back in straight-up modern country mode. “Wide Open” may be the most “rock” song on the album, even with its flourishes of steel guitar. “Miles Away” is atmospheric with a tender singer-songwriter feel and “Pieces” is close to the same in its sound, with a rush of mournful horns ending the melancholy tale. “Just Pretending” is folk with a well-done guitar part that echoes the pathos expressed in the lyrics and the album ends with “Nothing New”, some very forlorn folk rock with strategic strings placed in the mix.
“I Was Gone” is a solid display of the pair’s talent and I feel like it could find an audience over a wide range of listeners. Anyone into relationship-oriented and introspective lyrics in a folk rock style would be happy with the awesome production here but you could also please most fans of more laid-back country music nowadays, too. In the end, it’s a sturdy folk/ country album with a lot of story-telling in it- a literary creation made into music that should turn a few ears.
Recommended if you like; Ryan Adams, James Taylor, the Avett Brothers.
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.