Delightful first album invigorates traditional sounds with innocence and experience.
Much is being made of Bailey Bigger in Memphis, and so it should. Her first album is a great debut. Several elements come together to make ‘Coyote Red’ a success. The production is exceptional. Producer Bruce Watson arranged a near-perfect foundation for the songs. The instrumentation is varied, matching sound to mood, respecting the individuality of each song. But there are threads that run through the entire project, creating a sound that makes the entire project a whole. For example, a mandolin reverberates throughout the album and provides an olde tyme sound. It makes ‘Mississippi You’re On My Mind’ a great song. A number of established Memphis musicians contributed to the album, giving it a polished sound without becoming all Nashville. But all of these factors ain’t the key to this album’s success. That belongs to its principal, Bailey Bigger.
Her songs of love and loss share the emotional highs and lows she has experienced in the last few years. Not every song is a highly polished gem. ‘Help Me Stop Forgiving’, for instance, seems a bit too long. It’s emotionally honest and well-crafted, but could have got to the final verse a bit sooner. And a number of Bigger’s most personal songs are rough, ready and raw and might benefit from being reworked.
Her most lyrical songs are those that go beyond romance. She is clearly paying attention to the world around us and is able to describe it with precision and wit as in ‘South Dakota’. Damn, she writes well for such a young person. The title song ‘Coyote Red’ could easily be about a pet. ‘Black-eyed Susan’ is a delightful song about a flower. ‘Wyly’ is a heartfelt song to her brother, a celebration of siblings. It has the right sound for a song from a sister to a brother, the right tempo and a great arrangement that provides just the right background, allowing Bigger’s voice to come through clear and make the lyrics the focus.
Her song-writing and voice give the album freshness and emotional depth. Only so gifted a young writer could recognize her own innocence and be willing the share the intense emotions that are the realm of the young, both the excitement and the pain. In so doing, Bigger has created a distinctive album, which uses traditional musical forms to tell new stories. That they are her stories only shows Bigger is able to mine her own experiences and, at times, hit the motherlode of the universal. This album is a great introduction to a new voice enveloped in traditional sounds, – delightful new wine in old bottles.