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CD REVIEW: Darlene Bailey - Wrenches and Rags
By Cyrus Rhodes - 03/12/2012 - 05:05 PM EDT

Artist: Darlene Bailey
Album: Wrenches and Rags
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Folk/Rock/Pop
Sounds Like: Janis Ian, Suzanne Vega, Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Winds of Change, Ricky Rudd My NASCAR Stud, The Way Life Should Be
Weakness: More Instrumentation, Winded Songs
CD Review: Westford Connecticut’s own Darlene Bailey releases her debut CD entitled Wrenches and Rags in 2011. Reading her bio she left the security of the corporate world to pursue her lifelong passion of music. This latest release features Bailey (Vocals and Guitar), and she is backed up by an impressive lineup of session players.

The CD gently takes flight with “Hello, Old Bureau” a smooth intro groove that serves up an inviting vocal groove against impressive fretwork, smooth as silk rhythm section and mesmerizing vocal delivery from Bailey. Track 2 “Linda’s Angel” presents a slow moving piece that serves up a methodical musical build with a passionate melodic delivery with thought provoking lyrical content from Bailey that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 3: the title track delivers an upbeat melody with impressive lullaby, captivating subject matter and hypnotic vocal line from Bailey. The production quality is impressive and the musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. Along the way you will notice an array of instrumentation with things like acoustic guitar, violin, slide guitar, impressive Pedal Steel licks, harmonies and well placed keyboard accents along the way. Song for song the combination of Bailey’s voice and earthy fretwork is masterful. Now turning our attention over to Bailey - as for her vocal abilities - she is quite impressive. Her vocal style is cut from the cloth of Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow, Suzanne Vega, and Rita Coolidge. It definitely works well within the confines of this catalogue. Bailey’s impressive clear as a bell vibrato, falsetto and overall vocal passion clearly showcases a strong and confident vocal ability. I especially like how her voice just sort of flows and ebbs melodically with the music. This is an amazing quality that not many artists can execute. This X-Factor quality clearly makes Bailey a marquee talent. No doubt she has solid musical instincts behind the microphone and her vocal emotion is the ultimate selling point. This CD from Bailey delivers 12 compelling tracks all providing an interesting snapshot of an amazing artist with thought provoking lyrical wisdom with messages that are positive, passionate and extremely captivating. From my personal favorite “Winds of Change” to heartfelt “Song for TJ” and passionate “Today and for Always” to soothing “My Fathres’ Father” and The Way Life Should Be” to entertaining “Ricky Rudd My NASCAR Stud” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with track 12 “The Old Songs” the perfect wrap for a catalogue like this.

It’s fair to say just a tad more instrumentation is needed to mix up this catalogue just a bit better overall. Folksy elements like Harmonica, Banjo, Mandolin, Dobro, Hammond Organ, Jew’s Harp, Jug, Cello, even a few more solos here and there would take the edge of this issue quite nicely. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Somehow I don’t like how track 4 fades out - it sounds a bit unnatural and a somewhat forced.

I like everything about Darlene Bailey - period! She's truly an infectious artist that possess a solid sound, appeal, talent and vocal presence. She also is an impressive songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. From start to finish “Wrenches and Rags” is an impressive catalogue of music that is very genuine in nature. The music is warm and earthy, highly passionate, and purely honest. The pin drop moments are exceptional, and her falsetto is to die for. The songwriting is an interesting snapshot of music from a clairvoyant artist that has quite a lot to offer with respect to life experieinces and rich conventional wisdom. All songs are consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Note for note, song for song this catalogue is extremely consistent and fills the space with what I would describe as peaceful earthy musical exuberance.

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