Robert Bradley is a 50-year-old blind blues singer from Detroit who's become an unlikely crossover success. Bradley's latest album Time To Discover
has made a lot of pop critic's top 10 "Best of" lists for 2000, and deservedly so. This is a funky release that's part blues, part '70s-style soul, part classic rock. The album is elevated by Bradley's smoky voice, which is a bit like Richie Havens', but with greater range.
Bradley's life story is more incredible than fiction. When he got bored with his life in Alabama (where he ran a store for the blind), Bradley moved to Detroit and learned how to play guitar. Before long, he was raking in $500 a week playing the blues on sidewalks. In 1990, members of an alternative rock band heard the blind singer entertaining on the street outside their studio and persuaded him to jam. Occasional sessions evolved into regular gigs, and thus was born Robert Bradley's Backwater Surprise, a band that broke through with a hit video on MTV in 1996.
Time to Discover offers infectious hooks, funky guitar playing, modern percussion flourishes, and some wonderful soul-drenched singing by the leader. It also features Detroit rap-rocker Kid Rock, whose performance is comparatively subtle and doesn't ruin the proceedings (surprisingly). In fact, Time to Discover has little to do with modern rock or pop, despite some understated hip-hop touches. It's more of a cross between Sly and the Family Stone and Blues Traveler. If you dig quality classic rock with a blues bent, you should like this one a lot.
Personnel: Robert Bradley (Guitar, Lead Vocals); Michael Nehra (Bass, Vocals); Andrew Nehra (Drums, Organ, Vocals); Jeff Fowlkes (Organ, Vocals)