Every life event is fodder for the tell-all where artists are concerned—but on her second album, Elles Bailey stays focused on her experiences from the road. Released on March 8 through United Kingdom-based Outlaw Music, Road I Call Home is the 11-track follow-up to Bailey’s first full-length album Wildfire. Though Bailey recorded music prior to Wildfire’s release in September 2017, the strength of the album is what started drawing attention to Bailey’s vocals and songwriting. The elevated exposure enabled Bailey to spend the bulk of her time on the road as she traveled from one venue to the next, honing her performance skills and collecting the kinds of new experiences that make writing a sophomore album seem a little less daunting.
Though Wildfire gained critical praise for its Janis Joplin tribute “Girl Who Owned the Blues” and the buttery blend of Bailey’s husky voice with bluesy riffs on “Let Me Hear You Scream,” the album’s real success came through its single “Wildfire,” a song that echoes the guitar style of traditional blues and weaves in Bailey’s powerful vocals as a satisfying bonus. Road I Call Home is similarly taking off with help from its first single “Medicine Man,” which was released in October 2018. The song begins by introducing the guitar riff that carries throughout the song (good luck getting it out of your head—not that you’ll want to) and the song’s protagonist, who ultimately discovers that a trickster Medicine Man hoodwinked her. The song’s story is fun, but the repeating riff is what sells it—and Bailey’s deep, resonating vocals push the quality up a notch further.
While “Medicine Man” takes a decisive narrative approach, Bailey explores more personal questions elsewhere on the album, bringing her experiences on and off the road to the table (she is credited as a co-writer on every one of Road I Call Home’s tracks). On “Little Piece of Heaven,” Bailey explores the joy of unexpected love over melodies that are delicately emphasized by organist Jonny Henderson’s playing. In contrast with that sunny declaration of love is “What’s the Matter with You,” an expression of frustration and desperation over a relationship gone sour. It’s fitting that Bailey sounds most excited on the title track “Road I Call Home,” in which she sings, “I’m an addict for the stories / Craving every sound / I’ll be getting my hands dirty / ’Til I’m six feet underground” and “200 miles of this damn road / Wouldn’t change it if I could.” There’s ripe, real emotion in her voice on the songs that touch upon these personal topics, but her commitment to the road is the topic she seems to feel most passionate about and most eager to share with her growing fanbase.
Road I Call Home’s progression from album opener “Hell or High Water” to closing track “Light in the Distance” is another sign that listeners can use to read into Bailey’s current attitude toward her music career: As the album title suggests, she’s embracing life on the road and putting the bulk of her energy into delivering the kind of performances that demonstrate what she can do with her vocal range. But Bailey’s open to whatever may come next—she’s eager to discover what’s heading her way and curious to explore the paths available to her. Road I Call Home is the next step up for this singer/songwriter whose vocals really do sound incredible. Bailey has a unique talent for mixing traditional blues with sounds that feel fresh and modern, and her skills as a singer make that blend even more powerful. It’ll be fascinating to see where Bailey takes her music next.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Wild Wild West
– Medicine Man
– Road I Call Home
The Big Hit
– Medicine Man
Review by Meghan Roos