A glance at the cover of Kelly Bayfield’s new album, which is released next month, might suggest something pastoral and gentle. True, many of the songs on Wave Machine have their inspiration in pastoral themes and there is gentleness but there is so much more. I don’t think it is possible to sum up the album with just one illustration.
The songs all stem from Kelly’s own life but she enlists producer David Booth as co-writer as well as Kev Walford and Mike Hynes. The opener is ‘Vapour Trails’ in which Kelly looks back with regret on the despoilation of the planet since her childhood and that’s followed by ‘Whistling Man’, a meditation on the nature of God. Kelly has a powerful, flexible voice which is emphasised by the electric guitar and bass of Andy Trill and the drums of Booth and decorated by Tony Winn’s banjo. It’s not raucous or rocky but it is strong.
We’ve already heard the late Paul Sartin’s woodwinds and violin on the first track and for the third we have Toby Shaer and Mats Hárd. ‘John Mahoney’ is a lovely song for Kelly’s grandfather, named for his father who fought on the Somme. John Jr. was called up in 1943 and married in Germany after the war. The repeated refrain is “John Mahoney won’t you please come home” because John succumbed to dementia and was again lost to his family.
‘Safe For Now’ has words by Booth and ‘Lullaby’ is all by Kelly but both are linked by grief. ‘Harrier From The Marsh’ picks up on the theme of ‘Vapour Trails’ and leads naturally into ‘Birds Of Prey’, both inspired by the countryside of Kelly’s home in Suffolk. The former is accompanied by Phil Beer on fiddle and Ruth Wall’s harp while the latter features more of Hárd’s brass. ‘Hitchhiker’ tells of picking up a hitcher one Monday morning – something that a lone female is not advised to do – and, as Kelly says, it’s about trusting your instincts and taking a chance on them. The song features Mark Stuart’s lead guitar.
‘Wave Machine’ is a song that is easier to listen to than explain but is again linked to family tragedy and features a second appearance by Beth Porter and Ben Please. ‘Anything Less’, featuring Nick Zala’s pedal steel, falls into the same category and the closing track, ‘Travelling’, is for Kelly’s late husband – there is a lot of tragedy and deep emotion imbuing this album.
I have to say that twice through Wave Machine and I was hooked. Kelly has poured he heart and soul into this music.
Artist’s website: https://kellybayfield.co.uk/
‘Vapour Trails’ – live