If the title isn’t enough to entice you in, the first few minutes of this tremendous album surely will as Victoria Bailey’s perfect country voice introduces Honky Tonk Woman. The band then kick in with a seductive blend of fiddle and pedal steel joy in a perfect country song which contains just about all the hurt, heartache, romance and religion one could ask for. It’s honky tonk heaven indeed and raised well above the bar by Bailey’s exquisite performance.
Steeped in music via her parents from an early age, Bailey grew up in Orange Country, California, but she seems as well versed in Nashville sounds as those of nearby Bakersfield and the nine songs on Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline all confirm this. She has one of those pure country voices which hit on impact, think of Dolly or Patsy or Loretta and you’re halfway there, while she has assembled an accomplished set of pickers to accompany her. Have a listen to the country swing of Homegrown Roots with its zinging Dobro and impressive use of various percussive sounds and try not to be impressed. In addition, Bailey proves to be an excellent writer as she paints a picture of a dusty bar whose customers love their country music and paints this as well as Guy Clark once did.
Regarding Bakersfield, Bailey celebrates it on Skid Row where she sings, “Have you ever heard of the Bakersfield sound – Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam’s town – and all this time you thought you had to be from the South to get a little respect for your country sound?” Having firmly stamped out any sense that country can only come from the south she then allows the south a shout out her wonderful take on Johnny Cash’s Tennessee which is chock-full of creamy pedal steel and twanged guitar while she approximates a good ole gal’s voice in a middle interlude. Tennessee mentions George Jones and Bailey takes a leaf from Cash as she peppers her songs with mentions of country icons, a nod to tradition perhaps, but she’s not beyond taking a pop at them also. Outlaws is performed in a Waylon and Willie style, the band, as always, magnificent, but Bailey’s sarcasm is evident as she sings from the viewpoint of the little lady at home as her beau goes on the road. The lyrics tell the tale as she sings, “Write her a love song, tell her that you love her but you leave her feelin’ blue.”
There’s more grief on Ramblin’ Man, an excellent tear stained ballad as her cowboy man comes and goes as he pleases while Spent My Dime On White Wine has a slight gospel influence with a soulful organ as Bailey sings of the trials and tribulations of being a jobbing musician. The album closes with the swoonfull Travellin’ Kind, another song about waiting around for a lover to return.
Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline is one of those rare albums where all of the songs are quite superlative. Bailey’s not breaking any new ground here but she has delved into tradition and added her own take on it with the result that the album is one of the best we’ve heard this year. Bailey is an absolute gem and a fresh breath of country air. Highly recommended.