DALE ANN BRADLEY

Dale-Ann-BradleyDALE ANN BRADLEY
THE HARD WAY

Pinecastle Records PRC-1229

   The latest album from five-time IBMA Female Vocalist Of The Year and multiple Grammy nominee Dale Ann Bradley presents songs that have stayed close to her over the years. She says, “They are full-circle songs about regret—reflective songs maybe.”

At the height of her career, Bradley sings honestly about her own observations about life, as well as through the voices of the characters in her songs. Her exquisite and warm vocals are backed by Tim Dishman, Tina Adair, Michael Cleveland, Matt Leadbetter, Gena Britt, Alison Brown, and engineer Scott Vestal, among others. Cleveland, in particular, stands out on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.

Bradley is known for “bluegrassing” a rock song from the ’70s or ’80s on each album, and this time there are four: the title-cut by Jim Croce, the Journey song “Wheel In The Sky,” the classic “Ode To Billie Joe” popularized by Bobby Gentry, and The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple.” Kudos to guitarists Jody King and Andrew Crawford, who get the guitar riffs exactly right on “Hard Way Every Time” and “Wheel In The Sky.” “Ode To Billie Joe” is a song we’ve all heard many times, but Dale Ann’s authentic vocals make the telling new. In several songs (such as “Ripple”) Bradley’s lead is supported by seamless harmony from Adair and Kim Fox.

Bradley’s original “Pretty, Dark Hearted Emma Brown” has a cleverly twisted plot that pits two brothers against each other, with a stricken mother standing by, unwilling to betray either one. “The Redbird River” by Carla Gover is narrated by a grandmother, using images like fried apples, quilting, and scenes from the hills to look back over a life well-lived. “Boat On The Ocean,” with Adair and Shawn Lane on harmonies, tells the story of a love that comes and goes with the tide. “The Likes Of You,” a Randall Hylton song you may remember from the Bluegrass Cardinals, is an atypical bluegrass love song that’s actually happy. “Because He Loved Me,” with harmony from Steve and Debbie Gulley, is a song that serves up the simple truth of the gospel message.

Several of these songs are destined to become live concert fan favorites, and those discovering Bradley for the first time will be intrigued by the depth of her voice in the familiar covers. Hey Pinecastle—how about a whole album of Dale Ann Bradley Sings Jim Croce? (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)NCW

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