Elles Bailey releases Shining in the Half Light on February 25th. It really ought to be Bailey’s “breakthrough album” – you know: the one where all the rave reviews of live gigs are captured on a recording; the one that transcends genre and appeals to music lovers across the spectrum. I’m reviewing this for folking.com, I’ve heard tracks played on radio on Planet Rock, Bailey was UK Blues Artist of the Year in the UK Blues Awards 2021 and is an Artist of the Year nominee for the UK Americana Awards 2022. How the music industry pans out post-pandemic is still uncertain, but you know the album I mean, the one that’s just bloody good and deserves to be recognised widely.
There are ten tracks. ‘Cheats And Liars’ opens the album – a menacing verse and a call-to-arms chorus probably inspired by the lack of support to artists over the past 18 months, but broad enough to be more than that “running on empty…. deal us scraps from your silver spoon …. World keeps a turning revolution coming through … sing another song for the cheats and the liars”. If Guthrie would sympathise with the lyrics a rock band would be delighted with the arrangement. The opening line of ‘The Game’ talks about dancing to her own blues, but the track is more southern rock with Bailey’s distinctive husky vocal. The third track, ‘Stones’ is another full-sounded electric track from the same Americana influences, this time with a blurry lead guitar.
And then…. ‘Colours Start To Run’ shows us Bailey’s breadth – the vocal that could no doubt gravel out the previous songs to a stadium, turns here to a soul-influenced track that would be as at home in a small venue as an arena on a song with a nice image of life that was “easier in black and white/These days the colours start to run”. ‘Different Kind Of Love’ is a beautiful love song with a glorious vocal – find it and have a listen to the intonation and the shifts in phrasing – set against sympathetic understated playing. ‘Who’s That’ is the third of the slower central songs on the album, beginning to move the tempo up again with soul-blues/blues-soul gospel choir and organ. It would take an act of will-power not to join in the chorus.
‘Sunshine City’ bounces along, Bailey’s distinctive vocal set here against rock and roll tempo and guitars. Then she slows us down again, this time to the acoustic ‘Halfway House’. You’re reminded that, much as Bailey can rock, she can pull on the heart strings just as well. The lyric here is full of the equivocations of a relationship that’s come to the halfway house when we “Cannot be together, can’t be without/Where are we now?”. The penultimate track ‘Riding Out the Storm’ is, I suspect, set to become a festival favourite, rapid fire verse leading to a chorus made for singing in a sunny field. A measure of the strength of Shining in the Half Light is that the title track is the final one on the album, leaving you with as strong a sound leaving the album as there was opening it.
Bailey’s website lists the rather stunning band, the range of co-writers and how the production came to be finalised and the track order created … leading to her listening to mixes on the day she gave birth. Any of these complexities could easily have tipped the album off course. They haven’t. Have a listen for yourself on ‘Cheats and Liars’ in the link below.
The album, then, as a whole? – Shining In The Half Light, it’s bloody good.
Artist’s website: https://www.ellesbailey.com
‘Cheats And Liars’ – official video: