REVIEW: Raining in Darling

Summer time always brings back those things we in the Midwest long for—blue skies, blossoming trees and flowers, grass that springs up between your shoeless feet, and warmer weather so we can enjoy Graeter’s ice cream without deathly shivering. Summer is the one season in Cincinnati where you don’t get too many surprises, and for a month we get to enjoy that. Well, surprise is around the corner as indie-folk artist Raining in Darling is returning to what Henry Longfellow once called “the Queen of the West.” After being on a two year hiatus in New York City finishing his master’s degree, Cliff Bailey is bringing his smooth, melancholic, bluesy-Americana folk music back to the ‘Nati.

Like anything that is solidly constructed, Bailey has a foundation of inspirations that enables him to construct his own sound in a seductively capturing way. The sounds of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Mark Kozelek, Clem Snide, Denison Witmer, and Damien Jurado all seep through Bailey’s music. Often accompanied vocally by his wife Ashley (think of Gillian Welch and Jenny Lewis rolled into one vocal-box), Bailey’s untrained voice reminds me of a lo-fi mixture of Ryan Adams and Damien Rice, two artists that Raining in Darling speeds past in his diverse range of song-writing topics. Lyrically, I think Frontier Folk Nebraska’s Michael Hensley summed it up when he said, “Cliff has to be one of the best song writers I’ve ever heard around here.” There is the love relationship scene found in Bailey’s songs such as “South” and “You’re My Home”; who can blame him, though—the guy is married and we all know how a good song can make a gal swoon over you. And then there’s the song “Cry” where Bailey is painfully blunt: “If the words that you spoke don’t need to be there//If the story you tell, I can’t believe it//Then girl just walk away, don’t look back, cause I don’t give a damn.” By far my favorite song is “Alcohol”—a drowsy song filled with hammering in each strum on the guitar supporting a story about how painful life can be, and turning to your buddy booze all you can do is pray to God that your love doesn’t evolve into fear. The story-telling characteristic found in David Bazan and Damien Jurado is recaptured in Raining in Darling, and this lures me in to his music so forcefully that I can’t get the dang hook out of my mouth.

All in all, Raining in Darling is potentially Cincinnati’s best singer-song writer, and I’m not one to blow smoke (except for when I smoke). Bailey will be joining Frontier Folk Nebraska as their bassist and opening for them with his Raining in Darling material—much like how Tyler Ramsey opened for Band of Horses and then played lead guitar. When these two bands get together one can only expect a heart-felt, heart-wrenching, and heart-capturing evening of folk music and folk stories. It will be really nice to go to a live show where the music is so intoxicating that booze becomes superfluous. And, one can only hope that Raining in Darling does not go off and study again as his absence is a loss to the indie-folk scene in Cincinnati, a loss I’d rather not have to deal with.

-Christopher Green