BAILEY BIGGER – Coyote Red  (Madjack)

Coyote RedTouted as the next big thing from Memphis (though she’s now back living in smalltown Marion, Arkansas), Bigger’s debut album, Coyote Red,  is a hugely infectious, melodically catchy collection of country Americana sung in an appealing reedy voice occasionally reminiscent of Judy Collins with an ear for that old time sound. She’s joined by, among others,  Will Sexton on electric and slide guitars, bassist Mark Edgar Stuart and Eric Lewis on dobro, the album opening in instantly catchy style with  the summery chug and cascading notes of ‘You, Somehow’ and its simple declaration of redemptive love (“I’ve been through fire and flame/And felt a lifetime’s worth of shame/But when we touched I knew you’d turn that around/Cause your truth is on my skin/And I’m gonna love you till the end”).

The same sentiment informs  the waltzing strum and dobro coloured ‘Never Falling Out Of Love’ with its Carter family echoes (“I’ve been watching the clouds pass/And can’t help but see anything but you”) tinged with the life of the touring musician meaning times spent apart (“I’ll write you a song you can fall asleep to/Maybe when I’m not there you won’t feel as blue”) and the worry it may prove a fleeting flame (“And when you hear my voice sing/Do you think of my lips at the sound/Well you could hold me forever/And kiss me till my worries are gone/Then maybe you won’t have to leave this/And our love could live”).

A love song of a different persuasion, flecked with mandolin, ‘South Dakota’ with its reference to Mount Rushmore speaks (a sort of anti-Born To Run) of mid-life identity crisis (“Chrome iron on a two-wheel bike/Spinning wheels in a mirrored life/Engines sound as the thunder rolls/Leather made of murdered souls/Money buys your life crisis toy/Believing that it’s all some ploy/Tattoos to show that you belong/But you ride it so far right you’re wrong”) and the lure of running the badlands (“Find out who your god is/Maybe talk to her or him”) but which also suggest a commentary on the state of the nation (“You wanna know who god is/Well look at what we have become/Ignorant and numb”).

She’s bluegrassy on ‘Black Eyed Susan’, a song about the perennial wildflower native to North America, though it’s not a stretch to read lines like “Stands true and tall/If the storms are brewing/She ain’t worried at all” and “All your petals in a vase…She got picked and I never really knew her name/Everyone calls her the sunflower/And no one knows her name” through a bittersweet feminist lens.

Andy Ratliff on banjo with cello by Jana Misener, ‘Wyly’ with its prairie campfire feel is written for her brother, a song of encouragement (“I know you worry about what’s next/But I promise that you won’t regret/All the times that led you there/No matter where you go from here”) and sibling solidarity and support (“Let’s build a shrine for our innocence/And a castle for our dreams/Cause I will defend you in the darkness”).

Again using natural world imagery as metaphor, somewhere between The Eagles and Ian Tyson the title track takes the tempo up a gear, her warbling voice flowing across the shimmering guitars like a stream in a  celebration of both free spirit and commitment (“Why do you lay with me/You could go anywhere you like… You’re the wildest one I know/Brings tears to my eyes/To know you love with compromise”).

Love and life isn’t always smooth in her songs, the folksy  ‘Running From The Water’ charting a relationship on the rocks (“She don’t love him anymore/Will she ever love again…Late in the evening/He wonders why he wasn’t honest/And why he didn’t call/That’s all she wanted”) and the fear of commitment (“We’re all running from the wave”), while water flows directly into the bluesy soul hues of ‘The Levee’, an album highpoint anchored by bass and with moody solos from both Sexton and her brother on piano on a downbeat tale of betrayed love (“My baby told me/He’d feed me all his truth/I found nothing but lies/And cocaine on the steering wheel… You find another one/Waking in your bed sheets/Cause you couldn’t wait four days/For someone to get you off”). The character in the song seeks to “end his bleeding nose/And try to forgive the youth”, but it’s clearly a lost cause, giving rise to the subsequent six-minute dobro-coloured, desperately sad ‘God Help Me Stop Forgiving’, another song of a betrayed love (“My heart was ripped to pieces/By the one I trusted most/I no longer have any love for him/He only took away my peace”) as, slightly evocative of Parton, she heartbreakingly sings “I was raised to love the ones/Who have wronged me in my life/Showing kindness to everyone/Even if they don’t bite/But have you ever felt trapped inside/Handcuffed by peace/Given Grace as my middle name/But this grace won’t let me leave/So God, will you help me stop forgiving/Cause I think I have too much hope”.

She ends with an achingly lovely and wistful mandolin flecked ‘Mississippi You’re On My Mind’, Jesse Winchester’s longing for home classic, which, to these ears, actually surpasses the original, Bigger and better indeed, affording  further evidence, were it needed, that a new Americana star is born.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Weight Of Independence’ – official video: