Mirko posted about his forthcoming gig at the Sport Club on Facebook, other dates at Coulsdon and Conford have sold out, and commented “I’d really like to get a sold out in Devizes too!” Thing is, if you’d all been listening to the album I’ve been listening to for the past fortnight, it would sell out in five minutes. If local hero Jon Amor’s infectious influence on a vibrant blues scene for our market town is anything to go by, Elles Bailey will astound.
Remember when “soft metal” was all the rage, and you heard the intro to Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive? There was something ye olde Americana about it, something authentic; you could hear the wind whistling through a tumbleweed, but as the song progressed it tended to lose its way. Something about the intro to Wildfire reminded me of it, yet that authenticity never, for a second, wanes here, and Elles Bailey is actually, from Bristol.
In the nineties Bristol contributed to the electronic scene with a particularly unique blues element, I mention Massive Attack and Portishead to Elles, but she doesn’t cite an influence from them. “I didn’t listen at all as I was growing up,” she informs, but I suspected as much, “I love Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker and The Band though!”
“Ha-ha,” I jest, “not about to do a “Cher” corny dance number then? To which I rightfully receive no reply! For “Wildfire” is gorgeously mature, if I sum it up as; it blends blues and country, people might respond, “yeah right; that’s been done 60 years ago, it’s called rock n roll!” I’d favour it bridges a gap between the two; weaving blues roots, electric blues and country, with contemporary superiority and originality, but authenticity too, rather than simply, a “blend.” Generally, though, it’s blues, other times it nods to country, but only teeters on the edge of rock n roll. I asked Elles if this was fair portrayal, she replied, “Yeah I’d say that’s a pretty good comparison! I like to dance on the edge of blues, roots, soul and country – add a smidge of rock and that’s what gives you Elles Bailey.”
Still, there’s a wonderful smoky style to Elles voice, Bonnie Tyler too easy-a-comparison, because when its country, the acute composition and ingenious writing style is akin to Dolly, while her blues components are as blistering as the idols it pays tribute to; Howlin’ Wolf in particular.
It’s often questioned how a singer obtains their raspy or smoky vocals, and if its dangerous on the vocal chords. Some joke they record as soon as they wake up, others suggest smoking a packet of Camel cigarettes, but Elles’ website reveals a story behind hers of being in hospital as a kid. The blues then took Elles at an early age, and it shows, for this is truly polished and earnest music. This is one fiery blues chick with edge, but with sublime professionalism.
This is no quick sample of her music, I count eighteen tracks on the deluxe edition of her debut album Wildfire (Sept 1st 2017) she snapped over to me, which after a listen you feel emotionally exhausted but beholden, like you’ve just returned from a trip to Texas. Like a classic Springsteen album, subsequently you feel like you know the boss personally, as if he’s poured every last detail of his life, his transitory thoughts and sincere sentiment into it.
Wildfire received rave reviews, achieved no.2 in the iTunes blues Charts. Subject matter is often the rises and pitfalls of romance, or related, although not cliché, the standard template of cowboy references, boxcars and highway shoot-outs are rare, but Elles regularly travels to Nashville, the album tracked in Blackbird studios Tennessee. Produced by Brad Nowell, ‘Wildfire’ assembled a host of Nashville’s finest, including Grammy Award winning guitarist Brent Mason and three-time ‘Musician Hall of Famer’ Bobby Wood. Blended together back in the UK with the likes of Jonny Henderson (Robyn Ford, Matt Schofield) on Hammond organ and Joe Wilkins on blistering guitar, the result is a unique trans-Atlantic coming together of styles.
There’re no standalone tracks here; all are breath-taking and powerful, even acoustic ones. “Same Flame” packs said punch, and is particularly catchy, downtempo “Leiper’s Fork” is staunchly inspiring as Tammy Wynette, and “Time’s a Healer” drifts like Pink Floyd. I hear The Doors, Taylor Swift, but predominantly I hear that dependable old blues of Muddy Waters and the aforementioned Howlin’ Wolf, who’s self-titled tribute song Elles knocks out of the park. I tell her a story I’d once read about him in a recording studio in London, when he gave a quick word to a bunch of young hopefuls recording in the next studio. After said advice the group came out with the style which defined them, and thus the Rolling Stones ensued. Elles loved the story, how we’d both loved to have been a fly on that wall!
So, Elles is to present a stripped-down version of the songs on offer with Wildfire, “and some new songs and old songs, so a kinda different show,” she explains, on a hefty “Stripped back trio” tour she’s appearing at The Devizes Sports Club on Friday November 30th – you’d be a hound dog to miss out on this one.
Tickets available now at Devizes Books, Avon Trophies, Devizes Sports Club or of course, MPL Guitars UK. You can reserve your tickets via txt to be picked up on the door on 07760482453.