If you’re looking for a honky tonk sweetheart, then you’ve found one in native Californian Victoria Bailey, who comes sauntering out of the painted desert on a Palomino like a singin’ cowgirl from the days of old, seducing you with eyes the size of flying saucers and a sweet soprano with the most perfect country warble, singing original songs that compliment the throwback style into a full package of country music goodness.
There are no incidental anachronisms to be found here. This is classic country music steeped in the Golden Era when all the old greats reigned, and emphasizing not just the Bakersfield influences in country music’s legacy, but that of the Western stars of the early silver screen—Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Patsy Montana and the like, who always get overlooked when people cite the original influences and nascent performers of country and Western.
Studious in her interpretations and talented in her execution, Victoria Bailey takes eight original songs and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Tennessee” and turns them into a debut album on Rock Ridge Music that won’t revolutionize country music for the next generation, but it surely takes the music back to its roots, with simple and enjoyable songs rendered perfectly in the traditions of the earliest days of California country.
And no, the Huntington Beach, CA-native who picked up guitar at 12 and started playing and performing in southern California honky tonks at an early age isn’t here to apologize for where she’s from. She’s here to remind you how important California is to country, and to revitalize those roots. As she says in the song “Skid Row”:
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 the old country sound.
If anything, Victoria Bailey’s songs are even older, and more steeped in tradition than Merle and Dwight. This isn’t your parents country music. This is your grandparent’s country music. But Victoria brings such a passion and a seductive voice to the medium, there’s no stuffy, fuddy-duddy feeling here. Sure, in some respects this is a version of cosplay country. But it’s your version of cosplay country that you immediately connect with. Victoria Bailey sits perfectly within that Ameripolitan-like throwback scene. Classic, but cool.
The sounds might be winsome, but the sentiments are often sorrowful, as Bailey spends portions of Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline pining for cowboy lovers who are better at leaving than staying, no matter if it’s a “Ramblin’ Man,” or one of those “Outlaws.” “Travelin’ Kind” may find the show on the other foot, but either way gaze is set down the lonesome highway towards the one that’s leaving or got away, except in one of the album’s better-written and more straight-ahead tracks called “The Beginning.”
This is not a songwriter’s record per se, but Bailey does a fine job fitting story with style, and touches on poetic brilliance in moments, often in ways that accentuate her best asset, which is her naturally-gifted Western music voice, calling to mind the lonesome landscape of tumbleweed and cactus. In some moments maybe she could work a bit harder to craft the writing where it allows her vocals to shine even more. But she is certainly on the right path.
Produced by Jeremy Long who knows how to put all the right touches on a classic country record from the West Coast, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline hits all the right moods and announces Victoria Bailey as a important asset in the effort to revitalize country music’s Western roots.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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