Elles Bailey

2022

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Sometimes it’s not just about hitting the right notes, but having a voice that hits the sweet spot in your preferred range of vocal timbres. We all have different tastes of course, but certain voices have the ability to resonate widely. It’s not just vocal dexterity; some voices have that additional and indefinable charismatic quality, which is the case with the very charming Elles Bailey, displayed here to great effect across ten superbly crafted songs tracks of outstanding quality on her studio follow up to the excellent 'Road I Call Home' from 2019.

The album was originally intended to be recorded in Nashville, but Covid scuppered that plan. Less glamorous, but no less effectively, the songs were instead recorded primarily at Middle Farm Studio in Devon under the direction of producer Dan Weller. This has not resulted in any loss of sonic quality or musicianship, which are both top notch, in particular the consistently tasteful contribution of long term sideman, Joe Wilkins on lead guitar. A little of the music city sheen was added with the tracks being mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville.

These numbers fairly crackle with a vibrant energy. Opening track 'Cheats & Liars', a dig at the Government, begins with a brooding, tremolo laden guitar figure, punctuated by a crashing drum effect that sounds like a score of work gang chains crashing simultaneously into a wire fence. This builds to a powerful chorus, heralded by the introduction of some sumptuous backing vocals that burst into life along with Elle’s seemingly effortless main vocal, “turn, turn, turn, world keeps a turning, deal us scraps from your silver spoon”. Instantly memorable and bristling with power.

Each of the ten songs has been co-written with a number of different collaborators and this has resulted in an early contender for Blues album of the year. 'The Game' is another melodic uptempo romp with a strong chorus propelled along by Joe Wilkins’ fat riff and effective slide runs. The singer’s honey edged, but tough vocals, cope equally well with the faster numbers as well as slow builders like 'Colours Start to Run', which has some superb keyboard work by Jonny Henderson and strong, Gospel flavoured backing vocals.

'Different Kind of Love' is a heavenly slice of soulful Blues with a simply gorgeous vocal delivery; the inflexion on “kind” in the opening line “won’t you whisper something kind” has an engaging, emotional sincerity that is rarely heard. Absolutely lovely. 'Sunshine City' is another stomper with a great guitar part and some greasy slide playing. 'Riding Out The Storm' has a real Dusty in Memphis vibe, which is as good as it gets. There are no weak tracks. Elles Bailey deserves to be heard by a wider audience and build on her growing loyal fan base. With music as good as this, greater success can only be a matter of time.

Simon Green