j. bell was born, raised and honed his musical and songwriting chops on the muddy banks of the Mississippi River. Always drawn to music, he has played nearly every instrument over the course of his life, but was never drawn to anything like he was drawn to the guitar. He can’t quite remember when he started playing in bands, he has lots of memories of gathering in neighborhood garages and making noise with countless groups of kids. Eventually he started writing songs when he discovered Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Willie Nelson. Later he found the same draw in bands like the Counting Crows, Soul Asylum, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, and the Jayhawks.
In the mid nineties, he released several indie cassettes with the performance art-rock band “Doc’s Kids” before settling in with “Urban Rust”, a band comprised of other songwriters who released a couple of CDs. After Urban Rust, j. bell focused on playing solo acoustic shows and put out a couple of records of just him and a guitar before realizing how much he missed having a band. Always torn between wanting to perform quietly with an acoustic guitar and a flute, and wanting to jump off of flaming Marshall stacks while screaming, his writing style hops from genre to genre. It’s been called “twang rock”, “alt country”, “roots rock”, “Americana” and just about everything else you’d imagine. j. bell and the Lazy Susan Band (aka the LSB) simply think of it as straight up rock & roll.
In 2003, j. bell and the LSB released its first studio album, you…up in lights. Performing as a trio, the band pursued the songs on that record in a way that tried to push them into a twangy, pop rock envelope. The next year the band wrapped up a long “house band” stint and decided to commemorate it by recording an unplugged acoustic show. The result was the 2004 CD, Live @ Doc’s Landing, which featured songs from up in lights and from the studio album the band was working on. In 2006 j. bell & the LSB released what was thought to be their final record, Something Else Entirely. The band continued performing, but at a reduced pace that eventually sputtered out.
Seven years later, j. bell tried a “bucket list” idea: to write, produce, engineer, record, mix, sing and play every note on a record himself. The result was $80 Whiskey. The goal was to let this collection of songs be what it wanted to be. Eclectic at best…all over the place at worst…but honest. As he prepared to release the CD, he pulled together a new incarnation of the LSB to promote it, including longtime collaborator BPZMAG and $2 Bill Turner. Newly energized by $80 Whiskey, the band recorded and released a classic LSB band album titled Underneath a Minnesota Moon in 2016, then released a concept album called Greetings from Apocalyptic Falls in 2018.
In 2019 and 2020, the band recorded and pressed its latest record, Unreliable Witness, their most collaborative effort to date. It contains a wide variety of sounds, from '90s alt-rockers to bouncy numbers that’ll make you feel “like driving down a country road knocking over a farm stand”, according to Adventures in Americana. Unfortunately, the launch was planned just before the COVID-19 pandemic started, postponing the release of Unreliable Witness at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall until October 2021. The band is currently composing their newest effort in between gigs and farm stand reparations.