I listened to this album a lot before I appreciated it. At first I didn't know what I thought of it and if honest I was a little disappointed. However, it has now grown a lot on me and I think it is a really good CD.
What made me change my mind was simply remembering what he was trying to do on the album. It's called Western Bell because that's precisely what the music is meant to be, old style music from America's past. And it's instrumental. Even though I had read all about the album before I bought it, I forgot this and somehow expected shine eyed mister zen or tommy, without the singing. It took me a long time to realise that he has already done that and he's doing something new with this album, and he does it exceedingly well.
Now he is telling the stories but without the words. Try to imagine sitting in an old style bar with him, or being out on the road with him, or as another review said somewhere, in jail with him. He's told you all his stories from his life previously on other albums, and now he's just playing the guitar, conveying his soul and feelings through the guitar strings. He recorded this alone in the studio, and it comes across as a highly personal, intimate album.
It's far from easy listening and takes a fair few listens to appreciate, but once you do, you'll start to realise what he's doing with the music, you'll begin to visualise the stories and settings of the songs. You almost need to sit down on your own with a whisky in one hand and listen to this without anything else going on to appreciate it. I highly recommend this if you are already a fan and appreciate new, original music. Keep an open mind, give it a chance. It's very different but also well worth it.