Mack Bailey & Rachel Levy
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Mack Bailey & Rachel Levy

Denver, Colorado, United States | INDIE

Denver, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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By L. David Wheeler, staff writer
June 11, 2009

Mack Bailey and his wife, Rachel Levy, are longtime friends of Jim Clare. So when Clare and other musician friends started up a series of regular folk concerts in Clifton Springs, booking the folksinger couple was a natural choice.

“We’ve been getting notices — he tells me there’s an incredible musical presence especially there and ‘you gotta come up and check it out,’” Bailey said during a phone interview last week. “Unfortunately, we aren’t able to stay long — we have to turn around and go back the next day.”

But he’s hoping that next Wednesday’s concert — the “Tunes by the Tracks” show, moving from its regular library venue to the bigger room of the Spa Apartments — will be the first of many visits to the Finger Lakes.

Bailey and Levy play what’s best described as “Americana” music, infused with elements of folk, country, bluegrass and more. Lyrically, there’s an emphasis on the positive, the impetus to seize the day and move ahead on what’s right — for oneself, one’s loved ones, one’s planet.
As on “It’s Time,” a featured track on the couple’s MySpace and other Web presences, a song encouraging listeners to a greater environmental consciousness:


“We talk of how the Earth, it is our only home
And it’s running out of ways it can sustain its own
But the way our lives are changin’ every day
We ought to be more mindful in the smallest ways
... It’s time to stop thinking in red or black
It’s time to stop taking and give it back
It’s time to change the plan of attack
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time ..."


“I always feel like I want to have a message in every song,” Bailey said. “My mind always wants to find a message to put in every song — ‘this is the way it is, and this is the way it could be,’ or ‘this is the way it was, and this is the way it could be again.’

“The bottom line for me is, when I play a concert, the songs I want to play, I want the audience to feel empowered and I want me to feel empowered. I want to feel so empowered that I’m ready to take off, and I want the audience to feel that way too.”

It’s an attitude toward performing reminiscent of Bailey’s biggest musical hero, the late John Denver, a major influence on his music — the reason he learned to play guitar, in fact. Bailey actually eventually got to play with Denver, trading verses with him on “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

In addition to his work solo and with his wife — “we get to travel together, we get to perform together, we share ideas together — we really love all our time on the road” — Bailey performs with the folk group The Limeliters (more early heroes of his) and with the band The Hard Travelers. He’s shared stages with artists from Tom Paxton to Chet Atkins to Brooks & Dunn.

Bailey’s musical journey began when he was around 8, performing for his mother’s church group and the like. When he played the part of a courier in a production of “1776” while in high school, the director, from the North Carolina School for the Arts, urged him to enroll. He earned his degree there and later attended the University of North Carolina for awhile. Academically it didn’t work out that well, but it’s where he got some of his first tastes of playing in club settings with the Blue Moon Saloon Band.

“I had a lot of other jobs to help pay the bills, but music was always a given for me; I would look for every opportunity,” Bailey said. “Finally, I took the leap of faith and said, ‘that’s it, let’s go.’ There are times I would love to have a steady paycheck, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

It’s fitting, then, that he’s got a song called “Lucky Man.”

“What makes me truly lucky is that I know it,” he said. “What I try to get people to do is dwell on the good stuff."
- Daily Messenger


Pops Gala had something for everyone.

By: Jane Elkin

"The star attraction of the pops portion of the program was local favorite Mack Bailey, whose folksy tenor, guitar playing and whistling are reminiscent of John Denver. He's funny, too! Filling Maryland Hall with vocal and human warmth, he was the consummate one-man show. His renditions of "The Nearness of You" and "Eagles and Horses" made me want to run out and buy all of his recordings.
- From "The Capital" on 10/22/03


By Kathryn Preston
February 12, 2005
Promoting his new inspirational CD, "Why am I Here?," Mack Bailey said he chose to play a solo gig at Steve's Guitar's at the behest of fellow acoustic musician, Pete Huttlinger, who told him what a great room it was to play in. Both musicians are linked to John Denver. Mack Bailey's soaring tenor is stylistically very much like John Denver's, so it's fitting that he sings at many of the John Denver tribute events. (He has the perfect musical-theater voice if he were ever looking for experience in a different genre.) Bailey also sings with the legendary Limeliters, a Kingston Trio-type, folk-pop group. Mack will appear again in Aspen this fall with Chris Nole and other surprise guests at the Mountain Chalet Ballroom.
Bailey says he is more of a singer than a songwriter, and playing solo is rare for him these days. This particular solo gig revealed his knack for choosing songs that cut straight to the heart of Americana. Spending an evening with Bailey evokes a warm Garrison Keillor/Lake Wobegon feeling: one of being removed from the hustle and bustle of modern life, and being reminded of simple pleasures. The tune, "Rock Me, Grandpa," (from his days with the Blue Moon Saloon Band) written by Kevin Brown, is like a musical Norman Rockwell painting whose lyrics create a vivid portrait of a safe-haven in the arms of a kindly old father-figure: a theme that is oft repeated throughout Bailey's musical lexicon.
Bailey wrote another tune about simple pleasures, "Through Your Eyes." As he was trying to hustle his daughter into their car, in a hurry to get going, she had stopped to look at a bug. His first thought was to do something "unfatherly" and squash the bug, but he didn't. He stopped and got down on his knees with her, creating a moment, a song, and strengthening a bond that will last forever. This song also delivers another simple pleasure: Bailey's soft, gentle tones are as powerful as the strength of his tenor, and he would do well to utilize this aspect of his voice more in songs like "For One Night," and "I Didn't Come This Far."
On the CD, "Through Your Eyes," Bailey credits John Denver with teaching him how to sing a song, and Buddy Renfro for teaching him how to share one. Sharing a powerful story of the last few days spent with Renfro before his death, Bailey said that a lot of things became unimportant. For Renfro, sight and sound didn't matter much anymore, but human "touch" was most comforting. Bailey said, "in the end, we held hands for hours without saying a word." Bailey sang "how would I ever know the goodness of my soul without your loving hand?" for his friend.
An uplifting tune, "Travel light," is the musical equivalent of the phrase "don't let the turkeys get you down." For those who know about traveling light materially, this song reminds us to travel light spiritually as well. "Leave the weight of the world behind. Travel light." Traveling without physical, material weight, makes good horse sense to those who travel frequently across the country or around the world, but the message of traveling through life with a guiding "light," is often a much more elusive concept.
Tom Paxton helped Bailey write the song, "Just Because." Each listener seems to get something different out of this song depending on what he or she needs to hear, or what they are going through in life when they hear it. While Bailey says it was originally written with his daughter in mind, once again, there is a more universal "Father" theme intended as well. One concert-goer revealed to him that she had just lost her son a couple of months prior to hearing the song, and knew that her son was speaking to her through the lyrics, "Just because you can't see me, doesn't mean I'm not there. Just because you don't hear me, doesn't mean I don't care. Just because you can't make me appear out of thin air, just because you can't hold me, doesn't mean I'm not there."
A song called, "Daniel Lee," from the "Through Your Eyes" CD is a moving Pete Seeger-type tune about a homeless man. There is much truth to the lyric; "the world doesn't forgive you when you lose your way." However, a fitting follow-up to this song is, "I will Bring You Home," from the "Why Am I Here" CD. 'Though you are homeless, though you are alone, I will bring you home. Whatever's the matter, whatever's been done, I will bring you home. I will bring you home from this fearful place, I will bring you home." Words we all need to hear from time to time, and no singer croons them more compassionately than Bailey.
Finally, on Denver's song, "Eagles and Horses," Bailey whips up a fury with his tempestuous tenor, creating the perfect crescendo to a most heart-felt evening.
Kathryn Preston is a local actor, vocalist, poet and freelance writer. She can be reached at kathrynshakti@yahoo.com.
- Aspen Daily News


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Mack Bailey and Rachel Levy combine folk, country, and bluegrass for a sound all their own. The duo have been likened to a “similar pairing 40 years ago of Gram Parsons and a very young Emmylou Harris”. Their passionate songs and melodic sound create an intimate atmosphere and make for a special evening of music!

You can tell a lot about singer songwriter Mack Bailey by the musical company he keeps. Mack has been hailed as “the next great singer in folk music” by no less an authority than Glenn Yarbrough, the original tenor in the fabulous world-renowned folk trio, The Limeliters. Mack’s career came full circle when in 2004 he was asked to be the newest tenor in The Limeliters, with whom he now performs around the country.

Using John Denver’s music, Mack taught himself to play the guitar, so it was a thrill for Mack when he had the privilege of trading verses to “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” with Denver in front of 9000 people shortly before John’s death. Today, the Limeliters and John Denver continue to play an active role in Mack’s professional life, even as he pursues a successful musical career with his wife, Rachel Levy.

Several of Denver’s former band members have played on Mack’s albums, including Chris Nole, Pete Huttlinger, Jim Horn, and Bill Danoff. Other music royalty has joined him as well: Mary Chapin Carpenter sang on his first album, which was produced by Bill Danoff of “Country Roads” and “Afternoon Delight” fame, and the Jordanaires contributed soulful background vocals on his album, Why I’m Here. Most recently, prestigious musicians like Sam Bush, Pat Flynn, and Jack Pearson graced Mack’s album, Choose Your Attitude, which features Rachel.

For almost two decades, Mack has been a principle member of the reunited 60s group, The Hard Travelers. He has a rich history of major concert appearances having performed with or shared the stage as opener with a long list of folk and country stars including Brooks & Dunn, Randy Travis, Alabama, Barbara Mandrell, Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill & Amy Grant, Kathy Mattea, Tom Rush, Tom Paxton, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kenny Rogers, Alan Jackson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Brad Paisley, Leann Rimes, and John Denver confirming that indeed, Mack keeps very good musical company.

Mack also performs with his wife, Rachel Levy, and the duo have been likened to a “similar pairing 40 years ago of Gram Parsons and a very young Emmylou Harris”. “Lucky Man”, written by Mack and Rachel, was chosen as a finalist in the 2006 mid-atlantic song contest in the country/bluegrass category and was also selected to be profiled in sing out! Magazine. In addition, this past fall “Lucky Man” was a feature song on NASCAR Angels. Mack and Rachel also co-penned “It’s Time”, which has received critical acclaim from former Vice-President Al Gore, as promoting environmental awareness. Mack was awarded for his excellence with a WAMMIE for Best Traditional Folk Performer, and his song “High Gear” has been featured on NPR’s popular Car Talk.

Originally hailing from the small town of Troy, North Carolina, Mack attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated with a degree in music performance. Besides writing, performing solo and in his two groups, and recording eight solo albums, Mack and Rachel are musically active in several medical and environmental causes, including Maryland Therapeutic Riding, The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Starlight Starbright, and Challenge Aspen. They also play in nursing homes and Alzheimer’s units playing group concerts and individual outreach, and Mack continues to enjoy working with school students on songwriting in their creative writing classes. Mack and Rachel currently reside in Denver, Colorado.