08 March 2019 (released)
25 February 2019
So, the difficult second album.
Elles Bailey made a splash with her debut album ‘Wildfire’, still a regular item on the listening schedules, with a selection of songs that were both fresh & new and also somehow familiar and comfortable. She backed that up with a series of dynamite live performances and definitely made a place for herself in many listeners hearts.
Now she has come up with her second album and, before cuing it up, the first thing to go through my mind was the question of whether she was going to just repeat the music we heard on ‘Wildfire’ or go off in a different direction altogether.
So, after some deep listening and switching back and forth between the two albums, I’d say that she has taken what worked so well for her on the first album and added to it, moving deeper into the soul that underpins her smoky and emotional vocals and adding some ‘pizzazz’ that really works with the new songs.
To my mind, there is no question that the album was written and recorded in a shorter timeframe and it adds to the freshness but she has had to rely more on her teams this time around as most of these songs haven’t been tested with live audiences but when you have collaborators like Ashton Tucker, Roger Cook, Memphis legend Bobby Wood and The Black Keys Dan Auerbach in your corner the songs will automatically be strong and it’s difficult to find a weak link here.
The album was recorded in Nashville and Mono Valley Studios,Wales and she was able to attract the likes of Mike Brignardello, Jimmy Nichols, as well as Wes Little to record with alongside her regular UK band Matthew Jones (Drums), Zak Ranyard (Bass), Joe Wilkins (guitar) & Jonny Henderson (organ)
The album kicks off with ‘Hell Or High Water’ and she is immediately into southern Americana territory. Dark and throaty vocals, swirling Hammond and some powerful playing as the song ebbs and flows.
‘Wild Wild West’ continues in a slightly more ‘poppy’ vein with massive drums and a subtle organ swirl beneath her strong vocal – probably the song that has most reference back to the first album.
‘Deeper’ takes us way into soul territory and it is one of the best numbers on the album. Horns really punctuate and her singing is at its most emotive. It’s the number I have gone back to the most.
‘What’s The Matter’ is a deep Blues with a dense sound that draws you in and really envelops your senses – gorgeous Hammond playing and stunning guitar lines.
‘Medicine Man’ was the first single released from the album and it’s easy to see why it went straight top the top of the iTunes Blues chart – all the different elements coming together make for 3 minutes of great Blues.
The title track kicks off with a swirl of organ and some really driving pace – it sounds like a number that was made to play live and I can see this becoming a real fan favourite. No whingeing about constant touring, this is a celebration of getting out there in front of her people.
The album closes with ‘Light In The Distance’, just Elles and piano, almost straying into Beth Hart territory as it goes right to her heart and she sings with all the emotion and will she can muster.
I was worried that this album would be flat after the heights of ‘Wildfire’ but she crushes it and I’ll be looking forward to seeing these songs played live soon.