Legendary Texas singer-songwriters bound for Bates

Vince Bell. Photograph by Jamie Hart.

Vince Bell. Photograph by Jamie Hart.

Bates presents two longtime stars of the Texas songwriting scene, Vince Bell and Eric Taylor, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12, in the Olin Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at batestickets.com.  While supplies last, two free tickets are available to any active or veteran member of the military; reservations required. To reserve the free tickets or for more information, please contact 207-786-6163 or swarner@bates.edu.

Bell and Taylor both started out in Texas music in the 1970s. Nanci Griffith, a highly regarded singer, has said that among “all of us who were beating the paths around Texas in the ’70s, I always felt Vince was the best.”

Taylor, says acclaimed singer-songwriter Steve Earle, “was one of my heroes and teachers when I started playing around Houston. He’s the real deal.”

Eric Taylor

People have been talking about Taylor for four decades, when he became integral to a Houston songwriting scene that included Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Guy Clark. Taylor is one of the most influential Texas songwriters, with Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen and others among those citing his work.

Taylor grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Weimar, Texas, about halfway between Houston and Austin. He learned intricate blues guitar stylings from music legends Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi Fred McDowell while working at the Family Hand club in Houston at the start of his career. This led to his own unique style that would be imitated by many of the young songwriters he nurtured.

Eric Taylor.

Eric Taylor.

Taylor released his first album, the masterful Shameless Love (Featherbed) in 1981, but shortly thereafter left the music business. He made a triumphant return in 1995 with Eric Taylor (Watermelon), hailed by fans and critics alike as one of the finest albums of that year.

Since then Taylor has continued to write, tour and record, with 1998’s “Resurrect” (Koch International), 2001’s Scuffletown (Eminent Records), the live Kerrville Tapes (2003, Silverwolf Records) and The Great Divide (2005, Blue Ruby) among critical favorites.

Late last year, Blue Ruby Music released Eric Taylor and Friends, Live at the Red Shack. The disc captures the best of Taylor in a two-night stand in front of an audience at the Houston studio, featuring Lovett, Griffith, and other old Taylor friends and guests.

A mesmerizing performer, Taylor has been a featured artist at top festivals including the Kerrville, Newport and Woody Guthrie folk festivals. He has toured all over the U.S. and Western Europe, and appeared on “Austin City Limits,” “Late Night With David Letterman” (with Griffith) and NPR’s “Mountain Stage.”

Vince Bell

Bell’s songs have been performed and recorded by such diverse talents as Little Feat, Lovett and Griffith — and both a ballet and musical have been set to his work. Along with recording five critically acclaimed CDs, he is the author of an autobiography, One Man’s Music: The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell (University of North Texas Press, 2009) and the one-man performance piece, One Man’s Music: A Monologue with Song.

“Vince Bell is not your typical Texas singer-songwriter,” wrote a reporter for Acoustic Guitar magazine. “His music is more art song than folk song, more Jacques Brel than Woody Guthrie . . . He’s easier to compare to David Crosby or Joni Mitchell than to Willie or Waylon.”

A nimble guitarist with a one-of-a-kind voice, Bell spent the ’70s working the national coffeehouse circuit, often sharing a stage with Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Lucinda Williams. The following decade found this native Texan’s star on a rapid rise.

But in December 1982, Bell was broadsided by a drunk driver and suffered multiple serious injuries including severe brain trauma. Awakening from a coma a month later, he embarked on a courageous, decade-long journey to reclaim his identity, his music and his career.

In 1994, with the aid of producer Bob Neuwirth and a gathering of musical luminaries and friends, Vince Bell punctuated his “second comeback” with the critically acclaimed album Phoenix (Watermelon). 1999’s Texas Plates put Bell where he should have been all along — in the upper echelons of the songwriting guild and signed to a major record label, Warner Bros.

His other recordings are the independently released Live in Texas (2001), 2007’s Recado (SteadyBoy) and 2009’s One Man’s Music: The Songs (CDBY), a companion to his autobiography and performance piece.

Bell, who plays extensively in the U.S. and Europe, has appeared on such national broadcast television and radio programs as “Austin City Limits,” “Mountain Stage,” “World Café,” “Morning Edition” and other NPR programs.