A West Country girl with her heart in Nashville, Elles Bailey brings together a heady mix of Americana, blues and rock, spiking it with the fire of sharp commentary and a voice that could stop a charging lion and make it purr like a kitten.
Elles Bailey – Shining In The Half Light (OutLaw Music)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Paul Monkhouse
The new album Shining In The Half Light builds on the award-winning reputation of the previous three, its grooves containing her most mature and accomplished material yet.
The opening track Cheats And Liars will be instantly recognizable for anyone who caught her on her Autumn tour. The blend of prime, late ’70s Fleetwood Mac with stately old-time Gospel conjures the feel of the swamps.
Whilst the music itself may swelter from the stinging heat, the lyrics cut the deepest, a barbed riposte to all the politicians who have no care for those they’re charged with serving, only caring for themselves.
Impressive, Shining In The Half Light has reached number 11 in the Official Mid-week UK Charts. “I am so grateful to my incredible fan base for getting behind this album and believing in it,” Elles said. “This mid-week chart listing is all because of them.”
Both The Game and Stones head more towards country blues, upbeat and with a real twang to the guitars, the Gospel backing vocals again elevate them to something special and, when mixed with Bailey’s smokily expressive tone, all add a hefty punch.
One thing that strikes the listener immediately is how the production breathes life into the songs, balancing a clarity that makes every note and nuance clear and gives it an analogue warmth, the sound wrapping you in its arms.
Make no mistake, this is a mature album that matches the quality of the performances and songwriting with its sonic qualities, and when the sultry and soulful Colours Start To Run glides in swamped in feeling, you can’t but help fall in love.
The delicacy of this and Different Kind Of Love are album highlights, showing that Bailey is capable of so much more than straight-ahead blues rock, the layers of sophistication apparent as keys, backing vocals and guitar all work together to build exquisite layers.
In a hat-trick of mid-album seduction, Who’s That positively drips with a slow-burning passion, its ’60s touches something that the late, great Amy Winehouse built her career on. Similarly, Bailey shows she’s more than capable of breaking through into the mainstream big time with the album.
Sunshine City is another wonderfully upbeat rocker that could have been born in Tennessee before Halfway House strips everything back in a gentle ballad full of subtle steel guitar trills and gorgeous backing vocals, Bailey herself emoting with delicate power.
Throwing more into the mix, Riding Out The Storm takes us back to the ’60s, its slinky sass brimming with a curious amalgam of jazz and country that somehow works perfectly.
The album closes on the title track, and the artist has left the best until last. Shimmering in a woozy desert heat haze, imagine a jam between John Lee Hooker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Portishead happening in a bar somewhere in the Midwest, and you’re in the ballpark. Slowly building, it’s soaked in an atmosphere that will stay with you long after the last note fades.
“I am so proud of this grassroots journey I have been on,” Elles says, “and the story of this album. It seemed mad to self-release when I was offered a record deal, especially being a new mum with the touring schedule I had in front of me. But this record was my rain after a long drought; my oasis in the desert, made in lockdown whilst I was pregnant with my first child. I put every part of me into it, and I just wasn’t ready to let it go.”
Shining In The Half Light shows exactly why Elles Bailey is so feted and, if justice is done, should push the singer firmly into a much larger spotlight. With the chops and class like this, it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a household name.