Shining in the Half Light
A Soulful yet Gritty, Radio-Friendly Release Worthy of Very Big Things.
Hard working Bristol-based singer Elles Bailey has already won plenty of plaudits for her first two albums and dynamic live performances; and this third release seeks to build on that base.
In the times of COVID, Elles has not only managed to cram in a whole tour, but she was listening to mixes of this release in hospital on the day that she gave birth!
So, unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of cathartic release of energy and emotion on this release.
Personally, the Blues is a bit Marmite for this listener – it’s when it veers away from the obvious blueprints that I find it more satisfying, whether that be in the arrangements, vocal timbre, or genre-mixing – and thankfully, there’s evidence of all these things on “Shining in the Half Light”
“Cheats and Liars”, the opener is a chain-gang stomper given a futuristic update with thudding bass and percussion and soaring backing vocals – it has enough edge to satisfy the roots-rock weirdos out there, but at the same time, it’s polished enough for radio-friendliness too.
Following track “The Game” contains the line “always dance to the beat of my own blues” – it’s a more conventional Blues-Rock groover, but the playing and vocal versatility lift it several notches above your average workingman’s blues.
“Stones” adopts a slower pace and features duelling lead and guitar with soulful call and response of “Don’t throw stones”.
Things really leap into the stratosphere for me though, on the fourth track, “Colours Start to Run” where Bailey’s songwriting and voice move beyond Dusty Springfield badass territory – huge credit to producer Dan Weller who’s managed to create a great big, warm and gritty sound.
The more soulful side of the album is continued on “Different Kind of Love” where bass and keys provide embroidery to Bailey’s immaculate vocal – there are no show-off histrionics, just a flawless dedication to the song at the core of the performance.
The 60’s slow groove is further developed on “Who’s That?” – the production dynamics on this track are a lesson to any budding engineers/producers – there’s so much going on, but it’s all sculpted and crafted beautifully around the central delivery of the melody – it’s one of those things, that as mentioned earlier, lifted this above the expectations of the genre.
The tempo lifts again with the Tom Petty name-checking “Sunshine City” which has very much a Tina Turner groove and feel, before “Halfway House” starts with its acoustic guitar and lead vocal before being accompanied by power vocal backing from Andrusilla Mosely and Jade Elliot, building up to a subtly anthemic climax.
It’s again ‘radio-friendly’, but with a power and grit that belies that loaded phrase.
It’s back to a mid-tempo Memphis feel with “Riding Out the Storm”, written with guitarist Joe Wilkins and its philosophical “can we ride out the storm?” message. T
The title track, Shining in the Half Light, co-written with Nashville’s, Craig Lackey draws the album to its ten-track close via a reflection on living through screens in the world of lockdown, and it works on several other relationship and political levels too – musically it’s more on the funkier side of Rock side and the blues spectrum; with crawling bass and plenty of phased guitar underscoring the narrative.
Who knows; but after putting in all that hard graft over the last 15 years or so this may be the album to make Elles an ‘overnight sensation!’
Review by Nick Barber
Released 24th February 2021
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