There are few artists in country music who could capture the sounds of yesteryear like Luke Bell. Many artists who attempt that vintage sound do so through a modern lens. Bell, however, dug deep into the sounds of classic honky tonk without a hint of modernity. The 32-year-old singer-songwriter was truly a man born in the wrong era. Unfortunately, Bell left this world sometime in the last week. His body was discovered in Tucson, Arizona on August 29 after being missing for more than a week. Bell’s cause of death is currently unknown.
Luke Bell self-released an album titled Don’t Mind if I Do in 2014. Two years later, he signed with WME and Thirty Tigers to release his self-titled label debut. During his all-too-short career, Bell opened for greats like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and Dwight Yoakam. Additionally, Bell liked to roam. He had a habit of hopping trains and riding the rails across the country.
The Disappearance of Luke Bell
Luke Bell vanished on August 20. At the time he was with Smithsonian Folkways artist Matt Kinman. According to Saving Country Music, Kinman had been traveling and playing music with Bell and taking care of him. The pair traveled from Luke’s hometown of Cody, Wyoming to Tucson, Arizona to find work and play music. Kinman told the outlet, “…he just took off. He was in the back of the truck. I went in to get something to eat. I came out and he’d got out of the truck and left.”
Matt Kinman and Luke Bell were near 4th Avenue in Tucson. The area’s many one-of-a-kind shops draw artists of all stripes. Additionally, the area is popular among the local unhoused population and drug addicts.
This wasn’t the first time that Luke Bell vanished. After releasing a single album on Thirty Tigers, Bell disappeared from the public eye for more than a year. After his most recent disappearance, Kinman said “He could be in Tucson. But, it’s possible he jumped a freight train, and who knows where he’s going.”
Bell Fought a Long Battle with Mental Illness
Matt Kinman has been looking out for Luke Bell for the past six years. Bell was fighting a battle with severe bipolar disorder. Recently, doctors changed Bell’s medication and Kinman worries that the change led to his disappearance and untimely passing.
In the past, Luke Bell’s mental health issues led him to vanish for months at a time. Saving Country Music reports that many of those disappearances would end in incarceration or hospitalization.
Sadly, the world lost a unique talent when Luke Bell passed away. His self-titled album is still widely available and contains 10 of the best honky tonk songs you’ll ever hear from a modern artist. Do yourself a favor and put it on today in honor of a musician who could have gone down in history as one of the greats.