Guitarist Sheryl Bailey and bassist Harvie S have clearly learned the first rule of getting ahead in show biz in these days of glitz and hype: find a clever and distinctive namein this case Plucky Strum (after all, Lady Gaga was going nowhere as Stephani Germanotta). Departure is the duo's second album under that name for Whaling City Sound, one on which they show that pluck or strum by any name can be charming and persuasive.
Musically speaking, Bailey and S (may we call you S?) are exceedingly compatible, as well they would have to be on an album that embodies only the two of them. Unlike dancing, it is the female here who takes the lead (melodically) with Harvie S in charge of counterpoint and rhythm. As for the eleven songs on Departure, Bailey wrote five, her playing partner three, and the two collaborated on the free-ranging "Cranshaw," presumably (although not explicitly) dedicated to another bassist, first name Bob, who passed away in November 2016. Completing the album are Stephen Sills' "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and Joni Mitchell / John Guerin's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns."
Admirable as Bailey and Harvie S are, a little acoustic guitar and bass can go a long way, so Bailey spices things up by employing an electric guitar on several tracks and an overdub on "Summer Leaves" while S interposes shapely Arco passages on "Judy Blue Eyes" and Bailey's lyrical "Song of the Guitar." Bailey displays her impressive chops on the breezy opener, "Sublime," on which Harvie also solos with assurance. "Judy Blue Eyes" is preceded by Bailey's introspective "Old & Young Blues" and followed by her Latin-inspired "Sabado" (one of the vehicles for electric guitar). Besides "Sublime," Harvie S wrote the even-tempered "Now I Know" and debonair "Good Old Days" whose midstream change of tempo underscores its inbred charm.
When only two musicians are sharing the stage they'd best have plenty to offer, individually and collectively. Fortunately for the listener, Bailey and Harvie S deliver the goods on every number, averting any need for reinforcement. If guitar and bass are in your wheelhouse, you should derive great pleasure from this Departure.
Sublime; Old and Young Blues; Suite: Judy Blue Eyes; Sabado Con Mi Amor; Now I Know; The Hissing of Summer Lawns; What She Said; Cranshaw; Song of the Guitar; Good Ole Days; Alone.
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