Lush, melodic harmonies with roots in 1960s California.
Ian M Bailey’s 12 string Rickenbacker, rich melodies and harmonies will take you straight back to The Byrds and CSN. If these are his most definitive influences on an album that sparkles and warms, Bailey has also clearly absorbed The Association’s lighter pop harmonies and the elegant vocals of America. REM and The Jayhawks pop up but what Bailey does to perfection is to blend these various streams into a contemporary sound that radiates pure joy and abandon.
It is no coincidence that shades of another, more recent, fine exponent of country-rock this time from Scotland, come to mind. Following on from his EP ‘Shots Of Sun’ released earlier this year Bailey has teamed up with Daniel Wylie formerly of Cosmic Rough Riders to co-write this full album. They may be from Lancashire and Glasgow but Bailey and Wylie’s spiritual home must be Laurel Canyon.
The urgent acoustic, jangling electric over a beat of ‘This is not a Feeling’ makes sitting still impossible. Bailey’s voice feels like a breeze coming in off the Pacific. It is a happy sound that it takes only the more sombre keys to match a tense lyric of fading dreams. Bailey stretches his vocal range on ‘Take It Or Leave It’ alongside a staccato organ line as he wonders “Take it or leave it/ the wicked cry alone”. ‘A Place To Live’ is a pop song that flutters to the ground before gathering momentum to soar up into a trippy sky.
Toning down the jangle ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ shimmers like the sun through an autumn mist. Heavy on harmonies Bailey and Wylie’s lyrics swing from the disarmingly simple to the imagery of “And maybe there she’ll stand/ and moonlight takes her hand/ and writes her name across the sand/ While the oceans sang”. So effectively do the strings of ‘The Sound Of Her Voice’ sigh and swirl around Bailey’s voice now with a definite George Harrison tinge.
Bailey rocks too. ‘I’m Not The Enemy’ pulsates to an early REM garage rock beat. The Rickenbacker has moved on a couple of decades as have the harmonies. Yet he never completely leaves his pop roots ensuring the rich melody reigns supreme. After this delicious diet of melodious pop and rock, the sitar picking on instrumental ‘Midday At Hope Lodge’ comes as a surprise but as a cosmic interlude it is highly effective. ‘What’s Happening Now!’ is back to the Canyon and CSN. Lighter harmonies dominate a gentle acoustic line. The slow ebb and flow may sound retro but Bailey does not do covers.
‘Slow Down River’ is definitely early Jayhawks with its alt-country vibe. Bailey returns to the 60s to round out the record with ‘The Best Out Of Me’. A lamenting piano and strings add to the pathos of “And all I can do/ Is always be my best for you/ To bring the best out of me”. There is an innocence to that line redolent of a less complicated era.
Bailey has come up with a very fitting title. These are certainly songs to dream to, but equally his sound lifts the spirits. As dark falls earlier ‘Songs To Dream Along To’ will bring a warm burst of sunshine to the coming winter months.