Soul music is back. First Al Green resurfaces after thirty years to take us all back in time, then Detroit native and street singer/shaman Robert Bradley and his crack band Blackwater launch a throughly updated brand of soul for the 21st century. Despite the group’s D-Town roots, they owe much more to Memphis and Muscle Shoals than to Motown.
The 53-year-old Bradley is a curious combination of Otis Redding, Al Green, and Big Joe Turner. His voice is in no way pampered, betraying a hard life. This makes his voice both completely authentic and in many ways inappropriate for soul music. But no matter, whether it is the humid "All I Wanna do," the plaintive "Anna," the frenetic "I Thank You," or the rural "Virginia," Bradley’s voice has the begging quality of Redding’s and the smooth sensuality of Green’s.
Mr. Bradley is backed up by a group of talented kids half his age. Guitarists Matt Ruffino and Russ Epker and Keyboardist Randy Sly steer Bradley’s nuclear clock rhythm section with utter precision. Robert Bradley has (finally) arrived.
For more information, visit Vanguard Records on the web.
This and all pieces published in December 2003 are dedicated to my late father, Norman L. Bailey (1915-2003).