William Bell wrote "Born Under a Bad Sign," "You Don't Miss Your Water," and "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," among many other R&B classics, and anyone with those tunes on their résumé has nothing to prove to anyone. But no artist wants to be regarded as a spent force, no matter how impressive their past body of work may be. While Bell has stayed in the game since his glory days in the '60s and '70s, like many giants of the soul era, his recordings of the '90s and onward often suffered from poor production and a lack of sympathetic, worthwhile collaborators. But unlike many of his peers, Bell has been lucky enough to get a second chance at making a great record, and the revived Stax label teamed Bell with songwriter and producer John Leventhal. Working with Leventhal has brought out the best in Bell, and 2016's This Is Where I Live is his strongest and most powerful work since the late '70s. Bell's voice is in marvelous condition here, with the faint signs of age only adding to the subtle authority of his delivery. And in Leventhal, Bell has found a writing partner who has coaxed some excellent songs from him. The new songs on This Is Where I Live deal with the home truths of life and love that are the bedrock of Southern Soul. "The Three of Me," "The House Always Wins," and the title song are thoughtful and literate while also sounding warm and down to earth, and the maturity of Bell's outlook speaks of wisdom rather than wear. Bell also finds a few new wrinkles in his re-recording of "Born Under a Bad Sign," and his interpretation of Jesse Winchester's "All Your Stories" is splendid and knowing. The studio musicians have given these songs backdrops that evoke the mood of vintage soul without stumbling into cliches, and practically every aspect of this album flatters Bell and his talents. It's tempting to call This Is Where I Live a comeback, but the truth is Bell never went away. What the album does prove is that Bell's talent is as strong as ever, and that he's been given a chance to let it shine. Give a carpenter a small amount of marginal materials and he'll build a shed. Give that builder the proper supplies and he can construct a house. Give William Bell what he needs and he'll give you a mansion, and that's just what he's delivered with This Is Where I Live.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming