304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
I’m sure we all know of Elles Bailey and her rise to deserved recognition on the British blues scene. If you missed her career to date, then here is a quick summary: her early work led to a Bristol residency and then multiple acclaimed performances as opening act for such artists as Wille & the Bandits and Jo Harman. Her first EP Who I Am To Me was released in 2015, followed by The Elberton Sessions in 2016. Then came the debut album Wildfire that garnered this praise when Liz reviewed it in 2017… “Wildfire perfectly captures in a word the burning power of Elles’ vocals and stage presence as she sings blues that have captured in its blue flame, country, roots and soul. The voice is smoky with textures and tones that pulls out lyrics and coats them in Elles special brand of Bristol fanned Wildfire”. Has Elles managed to sustain the remarkable depth, soul and passion the debut promised? Well, the easy answer is a resounding yes; the new album, The Road I Call Home, is eleven tracks that embody the blues ethos but also weave country, soul and the ubiquitous Americana threads around it all and brings a modern edge that captures the attention from the first note to the last. As Elles says, “Wildfire was written over five years, “Road I Call Home was written over one. It tells the story of touring Wildfire, and how much my life has changed since. I feel it delves deeper, and deals with loss, love, anger, determination and life on the road, with more than 200 gigs under my belt and many miles travelled.”
On to the music and the opener, Hell Or High Water, starts in a kind of country rock style that has a nice picked chord pattern that Elles sings wonderfully over. It builds slowly as the band join in with keys and slide to a full blown rocker with a delightful slide solo to keep me even happier. Wild, Wild West is next and moves us neatly into acoustic backing with electric punctuation; it has a great, measured vocal as it develops into another heavy country rock (if that genre actually exists…well it does now!) song that is full of light and shade and, even if it is lighter than my normal fare, it is impossible not to fall in love with the catchy riff and, of course, Elles. Deeper is a real change of tone as the soulful keys and more brass than a troupe of monkeys combine to bring a true soul to the proceedings. Stax comparisons are inevitable with this one and the similarly pitched Foolish Hearts. Both are a bit too that way for me, but they are impeccable in their construction and execution with the instrumentation and vocals as close to perfection as you can get. What’s The Matter With You is however, just my cup of tea as it’s a slow blues drenched and heartstring pulling lyrics sung in a way that sends shivers through your spinal cord. The electric guitar is complimentary throughout and also delivers a short but sweet organ solo. Medicine Man is my favourite to date with a slide intro that is a delight and a vocal phrasing that is slightly country but fits perfectly with this bluesy rocker. The slide solo is simply wonderful and (surprise!) too short. Title track, Road I Call Home, is a blues-rock masterpiece from the tom pattern and organ at the beginning to the simple but effective riff and when the guitar solo/duet hits it lifts it still further…it’s too short! Help Somebody opens with a neat harp, drums, brass and slide as we are treated to an example of how Elles has absorbed so many influences and draws on them to compose a rock, country, Americana, blues song of quality and has a harp solo too. Little Piece Of Heaven is a hell of an achievement in the way Elles (with Dan Auerbach and the redoubtable Bobby Wood) has captured Americana in a unique way…as far as I’m concerned she has invented Britishana as she outshines many of the purveyors of this sub genre. That deft touch also colours the next track Miss Me When I’m Gone, except the gently strummed guitar backed with neat slide touches and solo, give it the edge. The final track, Light In The Distance, is just dramatic piano and vocal and actually reminds me of a David Coverdale track off his superb solo album, Northwinds. It is most definitely Elles though and not DC even though they both achieve pure blues soaked emotion throughout…a lovely closer.
Summarising this prodigious talent is simply difficult! She is a superb singer and composer and this album will be getting regular aural visits from me…I cannot help wishing however that there was less Staxy soul and more soulful blues at which she excels. That’s just me though and if you want an album chock full of brilliant performances that encompass and meld many of our favourite genres, then this is most definitely for you.
Track listing and composers:
Organ: Jonny Henderson
Drums: Matthew Jones
Bass: Zak Ranyard
Guitar: Joe Wilkins
Drums: Wes Little
Bass: Mike Brignardello & Steve Mackey
Electrics: Pat Buchanan & Chris Leuzinger
Acoustics: Chris Leuzinger
Keys: Jimmy Nichols
Tenor Sax/Baritone Sax: Sam Levine
Trumpet: Steve Patrick
Trumpet: Mike Haynes
Trombone: Chris McDonald
Brass Arrangements: Chris McDonald
Recorded atSound Emporium, Nashville; TN Mono Valley Studios, Wales; Blackbird Studios, Nashville; TN,Warner Studios, Nashville, TN
Produced byBrad Nowell & Steve Blackmon
Engineer– Steve Blackmon
Assistant Engineers– Zach Pancoast, Curtis ElVidge, Ewan Vickery
All tracks mixed bySteve Blackmon
Mastered byDan Shike at Tone And Volume Mastering, TN