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Lots of talented people fall in love and start making beautiful music together. But not many of them pull it off like Guy Forsyth and Jeska Bailey. Since becoming co-conspirators in life and song, they’ve proven that the whole can indeed be even greater than the sum of its formidable parts. For proof, look no further than Conspirators.
On seven powerful originals and five brilliantly chosen covers, Bailey and Forsyth knit their voices together as they’ve knitted their souls, creating a rich fabric of musical textures that gets better with each listen. On their first joint effort, they tap elemental blues, rootsy folk, rockin’ soul and even hints of cabaret and pop, finally soaring toward territory that’s theirs alone.
Forsyth and Bailey co-wrote one song, the resonator-driven drama “Daddy’s Listening” — which could be subtitled “The Shared Custody Blues.” He and Brian Keane wrote “The Things that Matter,” a folk tune inspired by the now-late Stephen Bruton, and George Rarey coauthored the fierce “Nobody Gonna Bail Me Out.” Forsyth’s solo-written tracks include “Pockets of Clouds,” “The Barefoot Waltz” (featuring Warren Hood on fiddle) and “What I Should be Singing.” He and Bailey turn that one into a duet so powerful, it could make Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper jealous they didn’t snag it for A Star is Born.
But it’s hardly their only tour de force moment. Bailey’s gentle delivery of Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” their beautifully meshed voices on Daniel Lanois’s “The Messenger” and their slow build on Brandi Carlile’s “Wherever is Your Heart” are all highlights. And then there’s the finale — their spine-tingling rendition of “Amazing Grace,” using the Blind Boys of Alabama’s “House of the Rising Sun” arrangement. Produced by Matt Smith at his 6 String Ranch in Austin, the album strips this music down to its essence: two incredible voices, augmented only by Forsyth’s master stringwork (or in the case of that fiddle, Hood’s) and occasional foot stomps.
For Forsyth, Conspirators is the latest in a long string of albums. For Bailey, it’s her first recording. But before relocating to Austin and joining her love onstage, she owned a club in her hometown of San Angelo, Texas, and sang in a blues band, in addition to doing acting, voice-over and photography work. In fact, they met when he played a gig at that club. In 2018, they made it official.
Raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Forsyth migrated to Austin in 1990, and quickly made his musical mark. He became a regular onstage at Antone’s, formed the Asylum Street Spankers, went solo, formed the Hot Nut Riveters and a blues band, toured the world, won many Austin Music Awards (including winning 2019 honors for Best Blues/Soul/Funk Band and Best Miscellaneous Instrument-harmonica, and 2018’s Best Male Vocals award) and toured the world some more. He’s also known as one of Austin’s few saw players. Mixing humor, irreverence, devotion and a deep knowledge of musical history, he’s earned his status as one of the city’s top talents — a status he now proudly shares with his favorite partner in, well, everything. As long as it’s legal. Mostly.