I had been looking forward to catching up with Elles Bailey on this tour but was not able to catch her at the album launch at the Lexington a while back so I made the trek down to deepest Essex to see her at the New Crawdaddy Club in Basildon.

It took Elles a couple of numbers to warm up, she was looking unusually unconfident at the beginning of the set, but as the show progressed she warmed up and the capacity crowd warmed up along with her and her excellent band – Joe Wilkins exceptional on guitar and Jonny Henderson laying down some wonderful Hammond lines – to the point where they were standing, hooting and cheering her to the ceiling of the New Crawdaddy.

At one time it was easy to pigeonhole Elles Bailey as a Blues singer/writer with some country in her sound but after recording her two albums in Nashville and finding herself in some of Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters she has now developed into a musician with many different elements to her music – she has Blues but also strong Americana and Country elements and there are strong soul touches in her music now as well.
All linking together to make a pretty unique artist and the crowd definitely seemed to enjoy her changes.

The set itself was mainly based around the ‘Road I Call Home’ album and the ‘Blacktop Companion’ set that accompanies it and it was only at the end of the show that she performed the numbers from ‘Wildfire’ that she has made her name from – a wonderfully intense ‘Girl Who Owned The Blues’ and a stirring ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ – but numbers like ‘Medicine Man’ and ‘Wild Wild West’ really hit the spot and her version of ‘Angel From Montgomery’ was simply fabulous, passionate and soulful with a lovely tale of seeing it performed at the Americana awards in Nashville by Bonnie Raitt & John Prine. ‘Miss Me When I’m Gone’ and ‘Road I Call Home’ went down really well with the crowd.

Bailey give a lot of herself in her performances, explaining the background to many of the songs and you walk away from her shows feeling completely enveloped in the music and thankful for being a part of a hugely organic event.

Opening the show was a young man originally from Antrim – Dom Martin. I had heard good things about him and was really looking forward to something a bit special. He was all that, in spades. He opened with a John Martyn number ‘Easy Blues’ – a hugely difficult piece, originally written for piano by Jelly Roll Morton – and nailed it. I was lucky enough to see John himself perform it more than once and this was up to his standard. When it cam to Martin’s original material he was equally fine and his half hour set flew by. The crowd would have loved to see more of him, his playing and his softly charming demeanour and I will make it a target to see him play a full set whenever I can. This young man is special and he has the talent in his playing and his singing to go an awfully long way.

The New Crawdaddy is closing its doors in a couple of weeks after 20 odd years as one of Essex’s prime Blues clubs. It will be missed. Hopefully there will be someone to take on the mantle but it seems as though it’s going out with a shout and not a whimper.

This was a fine night of music with an excellent crowd and terrific performers.