Ryan Bailey & Cumberland Belle
Down to the Wire

There’s a dose of intelligent pop sensibility in the twangy, slightly morose rock songs on songwriter Ryan Bailey’s new set of originals. Recorded with precision and a graceful technique with backing from guitarist Carl Wine and the solid rhythm section of bassist Shawn Leberknight and drummer Parker Smith, it’s crisp and accessible.

The overall feel of Down to the Wire is that of a songwriter getting close to his creative best.

Sometimes a piano or organ leads the way, thanks in large part to a guest performance from Eric Stair. Some songs lean in a spiritual direction at times, as on the piano-driven ballad “Prayer for You,” in which Bailey sings, “Same old demons calling you away/Same old battle in my head.” Some songs, like lead-off track “Save My Life,” are masterful pop-rocker gems.

The strummy “The House is on Fire” works nicely from a careful build-up, featuring piano atmospherics and Bailey’s twangy country guitar. The frontman sings in low, almost weepy tones on the waltzy slow number “Down to the Wire,” and he embellishes with a strong falsetto on the upbeat closer “She Can’t Sleep.” With their pop and rock sensibility at the fore, this EP is a sign of strong things to come. (ryanbailey.com)

Davis Coen

Jukebox Classic

Charleston-based singer/guitarist Davis Coen is at it again, singing gruffly with a bruised heart and picking mean, low-down licks and grooves on antique-sounding guitars. On his new album, Jukebox Classic, he sticks with the familiar elements of classic R&B, vintage Southern blues, and soulful gospel styles that went into his previous work.

An odd-and-sods collection of tracks leftover from his recent sessions at the Delta Recording Service in Colo, Miss., Coen describes this gritty new disc as a supplement to last year’s tighter Magnolia Land.

Drummers Darren Dortin and Kinney Kimbrough chipped in on the 11 songs, as did bassist/engineer Justin Showah and organist Lance Ashley. The Delta vibes are prevalant.

The loose, prom-ready ballad “Don’t Ever Be Sorry” is the most Buddy Holly-esque thing Coen’s recorded. The dirty-toned boogie “Cool with Me Tonight” and “By and By” feature some deeply soulful naughtiness and killer riffs. “Waiting on a Fire” bounces like an organ-based rocker from an early Stones session. The acoustic “Tight Times” displays some of Coen’s strongest finger-pickin’ and high-pitched howls on the album. (daviscoen.com)

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