KB Bayley is a songwriter and guitar player whose new album Little Thunderstorms has been described as a collection of ‘remarkable storytelling narratives, expert playing, a sprinkling of melancholy and a sound which could have directly come out of Austin, Texas or Nashville.
KB writes and performs his songs on dobro, lap steel, acoustic and cigar box guitars as well as an old upright piano. His influences straddle two time zones, years apart: the ‘Laurel Canyon’ period of James Taylor, John Prine and Jackson C Frank (with whom KB shares a soft and introspective vocal style); and the recent explosion in contemporary roots songwriters, including Jason Isbell, John Moreland, Jeffrey Foucault, Kelly Joe Phelps and Ben Glover (who sings guest vocals on the album).
KB says of the writing process behind Little Thunderstorms: “I wrote these songs over the last two years – and they’re just about stuff that happens to us. Big, small, tragic, uplifting, seismic, significant, everyday: ‘the sky is full of little thunderstorms.’ Then 2020 happened, and the songs ended up being recorded in a locked down back room at home, surrounded by coffee cups and second-hand gear bought on eBay. But somehow the record ended up sounding just like I had always imagined it.”
This is largely due to the remote collaborations with other artists that played and sung on the record, all artists and songwriters in their own right. Backing vocals come from Claudia Stark and Jim Cozens: pedal steel from Charlie Jonas Walter (of bluegrass duo Jonas and Jane), smoking electric guitar from Backwoods Creek’s Dean Parker, and chorus vocals on ‘Blood Red Lullaby’ by Proper Records artist Ben Glover. “I first saw Ben play live in 2013, and since then his songs – and his collaborations with people like Gretchen Peters, Mary Gauthier and Kim Richey – have been a huge influence on me. To have him sing on my record was a honour and a thrill.”
The sound of Little Thunderstorms is simultaneously ancient and modern: dusty acoustic instruments, played on a creaking chair with lyrics that speak of changing times, shifting sands and silent streets outside the window. The songs are rich in atmosphere, confession, redemption and lyrical imagery: ‘I know your heart is breaking, like bones washed up on the shore…’
“I guess I always leave the last words to Tom Waits, probably my biggest songwriting influence” says KB. “’To write a song, you need three things: a place, the weather, and something to drink. Start there and you should be OK…’”