KB Bayley – Little Thunderstorms: Album Review

Eleven polished gems from KB Bayley – a master tunesmith

Release Date:  5th February 2021

Label: Self-released

Formats: CD, Download, Stream. Vinyl

The name KB Bayley may be familiar to you.  He’s been around for a while, as a member of London blues outfit Shotgun House, or more latterly as a singer-songwriter with a strong line in reflective, observational, restrained, melodic songs.  He’s also a fantastic musician. A master of the acoustic guitar and dobro and he’s the owner of a strong, tuneful, sympathetic voice that gets his messages over loud and clear.  Little Thunderstorms is his latest album, and it’s a peach!

KB suggests that his influences cover two time zones, with James Taylor, John Prine and Jackson C Frank sitting alongside more contemporary songwriters such as Jason Isbell, John Moreland, Jeffrey Foucault, Kelly Joe Phelps and Ben Glover.  Those influences all shine through in KB’s material, but, overwhelmingly, his musical style is his own and, despite the rootsy Americana that pervades his songs, the overall impression is one of distinct Englishness.  With one exception, the songs on Little Thunderstorms are all KB’s own work written over a period of two years. Their subject matter reflects KB’s experiences during that period; the ‘Little Thunderstorms ‘ that he’s endured and it all adds up to a great album for our time. One that captures and bottles the loneliness and isolation that has become a reality to many during lockdown.

The album was recorded during lockdown and the well-chosen inputs from KB’s collaborators were all provided remotely.  Although every one of these songs is a showcase for KB’s sensitive writing and his outstanding musicianship, his collaborators, particularly Claudia Stark and Jim Cozens, who provide some wonderfully restrained backing vocals, Charlie Jonas Walter, who chips in with heavenly pedal steel and Dean Parker, whose electric guitar licks enliven Blood Red Lullaby (just one of the album’s many highlights) add a layer of icing to what is already a very tasty cake.

The album gets off to a blistering start with Cold Rain, a song on which KB’s voice and dobro playing serve notice of the treats to come and the title track, a song of lost love, provides more of the same.  Throw It In The River is genuinely outstanding. A lyric that describes the state of life (for some) in urban Britain, with references to homelessness, loneliness, religious fervour, heartbreak and ambulance sirens given extra poignancy via the tones of Charlie’s pedal steel guitar.  The aforementioned Blood Red Lullaby is probably the most overtly American sounding song on the album in both tone and content. Its slightly disturbing lyrics deal with subjects including the assassination of JFK and mental illness.

For Night Dogs, another excellent song, we move into jazzier territory.  Brin Heywood-Snell’s trumpet and Dean parker’s guitar supplement KB’s piano to take the sound in a new direction, and there’s yet another challenging lyric, this time concerning lonely nights spent away from home.  I particularly like the song’s reference to “…going back to photographs to dance with the ghosts of the past.”  We’ve all done that at one time or another.

We get more of Charlie’s excellent pedal steel on the gentle, reflective Time to Leave Town, whilst KB’s lap steel playing on North Coast Girl. A song with a memorable chorus it’s utterly sublime.  On Crazy About Me, the strange, sad lyric is given extra emphasis by some beautiful violin lines from Adiescar Chase.  North Shore Road is another real highlight. One of several songs that are either set in, or makes reference to, a church, it’s a reflection of the people that have used the church for marriage, worship or burial, to a sensitive backing of acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica.

The well-known traditional tune, Wayfaring Stranger, is given a thoroughly bluesy treatment, and KB’s dobro is breathtaking before things are wrapped up with yet another highlight, Cheap Suit (written by Jeffrey Foucault) – a song that features KB on acoustic guitar and cigar box guitar and an atmospheric, evocative lyric about an old bluesman.  A wonderful end to an outstanding album.

Watch KB Bayley’s video for Cold Rain – the opening track on the album – here:

KB Bayley Online: Facebook/ YouTube

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