Appearing 9/20: MIdway Cafe, 3496 Washington St, Jamaica Plain @ 9pm.
'Whatever You Wanted' named as one of the best country/Americana albums of 2015 by the Telegraph UK!
Here's a look at some recent reviews of Whatever You Wanted:
Red Line Roots, 6/24/16:
The singer-songwriter’s last release “Whatever I Wanted” was a collection of rich and full arrangements centered around the songwriter’s voice and storytelling. You can go deep into the cavernous layers of the songs on this record and “Crazy Heart” was a prime example of it. Mysterious and haunting in a way, it very well could have been licensed as the opening credit track for season 1 of True Detective. It just has that certain, spooky and reverberating vibe to it.
From our review: “Personal favorite track from the record is the haunting and reverberating “Crazy Heart”. Like a basin filled with thoughts that plague the mind and heart of a man, but all the while reflecting on the things that make him who he is. Mistakes or triumphs. It has a very sepia tinged, empty barroom feel”
Check out the video just recently released in which the tale unfolds in barrooms, deserts and empty, abandoned train cars only further adding to the mood of the tune.
On “Whatever You Wanted, “ Bradshaw shows a willingness to experiment with and expand on his blended country-rock/acoustic folk-pop style, incorporating brass on four of the tracks, for example, and trying out different time signatures. His lyrics are as economical as ever, conveying emotions and situations with understated eloquence here, sly wit there, and everywhere a long, appraising glance: “No medals for the souls who lay low/In quiet rooms to hide their eyes/Nobody’s gonna put a halo/On a fool who cries” (“A Fool Who Cries”); “Two days alone and I’m doin’ great/I take a jump to celebrate/Strapped into a parachute/I wait a while to pull to the cord” (“Losing You”); “Sparrow tells me: listen up/I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ good/Your garden’s got the sweetest worms/I like a juicy neighborhood” (“Sparrow”).
Bradshaw doesn’t hesitate to credit his collaborators on “Whatever You Wanted,” like drummer Francisco Matas, fellow singer-songwriter Flynn, backing vocalist Annalise Emerick, keyboardist James Rohr, fiddler/cellist Duncan Wickel, horn players Scott Aruda and Joe Stewart, and longtime friends Scoop McGuire – who co-produced the album in addition to playing bass and guitar – and Duke Levine on electric and lap steel guitars.
The credit is well deserved: “Whatever You Wanted” is Bradshaw’s most musically adventurous effort so far, yet there’s nothing that sounds like an overreach. The title track (co-written with Flynn, who also sings and plays guitar) is a blunt break-up song that has echoes of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” but with more urgency, Emerick’s harmony and Wickel’s brusque cello on the chorus helping drive home the point: “Whatever you wanted/whatever you came here about/whatever you wanted/Well, I’m all out.”
“Go Get Along” is another good-bye song and a delightful take on Western swing, Levine’s lap steel providing a Lefty Frizzell-like aura. Somewhat in the same vein is the charmingly ironic “Dream,” a veritable compendium of gauzy pop songs, Mike DeNiro’s vibes set alongside Levine’s surf-style guitar. “Crazy Heart” (more love-gone-wrong) is spare in its arrangement, Bradshaw’s acoustic guitar and Matas’ quiet drumming moving things along while Levine provides a gentle shower of chords and riffs; there’s no bass, as Bradshaw points out, which makes the song – much like the relationship it describes – “sound kind of open-ended.”
Lisa Torem, Pennyblackmusic.co.uk!
Singer-songwriter Bob Bradshaw has spent twenty-five years perfecting his craft. His sixth album, ‘Whatever You Wanted’, is a wonderfully-paced example of how he has lifted the sights, sounds and moods of his adopted surroundings and sparkled them with originality. Bradshaw was raised in Ireland, though, and part of the allure is how his unarguable musical roots mesh so successfully with the bluegrass swing and soul of the dozen tracks.
‘The Start of Nothin’ features subtle harmonies and spacious guitar fills. The ultimate payoff, though, is how this striking symbiosis of earnest vocals and anguished instrumentals drive this ballad of disillusionment upon which Bradshaw bares his soul: “I had something to tell you/Didn’t know what it was,” he repeats, letting us in on his confusion.
Bradshaw’s voice has a bitter bite in the signature song and you’d be a fool not to hear him out. His voice is embraced by darkening strings and turbulent rhythm.
“You came for the whatever thing that makes you twist and shout/Well, I’m all out,” he sings, with an understandable sense of weariness.
In ‘Crazy Heart’, Bradshaw weaves his left-on-the-vine remorse around a lush, Duane Eddy-esque backdrop, courtesy of guitarist Duke Levine. Levine makes an equally impressive appearance on the more truculent ‘Losing You’, joined by sharp organ and a fiercely independent bass.
The strength of the song ‘Sparrow’ is derived from its complex, classical structure and unexpected nuance, which ranges from Duncan Wickel’s chest-pounding cello to light wind chimes in the otherwise brooding outro.
‘Dream’ has a beguiling Everly Brothers’ feel to it. Bradshaw takes his time telling the engaging story and the outro, alone, holds its own kind of charm. A sharp, old timey piano rings out in ‘A Fool Who Cries’, which also benefits from Scott Aruda’s steamy trumpet and Joe Stewart’s forceful trombone — the two also spike up the already sincere ‘Before’.
‘Go Get Along’ features Annalise Emerick’s lustful harmonies and Chad Manning’s frolicking pair of fiddles. ‘High’ – “as a satellite taking in the view –“ gives room for the entire rhythm section to shine, with percussionist Francisco Matas at the head of the class. You’ll lose yourself in its intoxicating instrumental as Bradshaw expresses his innermost feelings with no holds barred, while on ‘Sad Songs’, his extraordinary use of poetic device, such as repetition, celebrates the heartbeat. ‘The Long Ride Home’ is the closer and it benefits greatly from piano master James Rohr and Bradshaw’s truthful narrative.
In ‘Whatever You Wanted’, Bob Bradshaw’s Americana-influenced stories are as solid as a boot-kicked tire.
"Much as any non-guitarist with flair will eventually find themselves tagged 'the Hendrix of the nose-flute' (or whatever), it's pretty much the law that any above-average song craftsman will find a publicist contriving to get their name in the same sentence as Guy Clark and/or Townes Van Zandt, more occasionally Randy Newman as that's a bit more high-risk. Mostly, of course, this is utter cat-tray residue, but there are exceptions to any rule and one just might be the splendid Bob Bradshaw.
Raised in Ireland and educated in bar-rooms, clubs and honky-tonks across the United States (credit where it's due, some PR phrases are worth stealing), his sixth album is an earnest and inspiring exploration of the musics of his adopted country. Roots rock, Western swing, country-soul, acoustic ballads and, yes, all right, a very Newman-esque closer in the elegant and plaintive, piano-led shape of 'The Long Ride Home'.
Proceedings get off to an exceptionally strong beginning with 'The Start Of Nothin', a song so well crafted and hauntingly delivered that I'm not even tempted tto make the obvious joke. Nor does the quality slip much after that, on an album chock-full of what Guy Clark himself would doubtless call keepers."
His roving spirit is plain to hear and means that he's equally happy cruising to the bluesy Losing You or ambling along on the noirish Crazy Heart. On the journey he follows his hopes and dreams through twelve country-tinged tunes classily fleshed out with tasteful brass sections and well-judged string arrangements.
Along the way the mood ranges from the jaunty title track to the melancholy of Sad Songs and includes a reviving detour into the Western swing of Go Get Along where he duets with Annalise Emerick. All in all it serves well as a soundtrack to an imaginary road movie about finding your true self that begins with a young boy running across open fields in The Start of Nothin’ and ends happily, if a little wistfully, with The Long Ride Home."
From 'Red Line Roots' - 12/8/16:
“Whatever You Wanted” displays the songwriter stretching the boundaries of what you can put into a single record and have it considered one genre. The band that Bradshaw has chosen for this album is fantastic. There are hints of traditional folk songwriting, blues, rock n’ roll and country as the stories he spins are unfolded over a highway of sounds ranging from dirty blues guitar on ‘Losing You’ to the dark Americana vibes he pours out on “The Start of Nothin’”, dotted with carefully picked acoustic guitar parts and the drone of the expertly places notes of the electric ringing underneath the commentary.
I was a young boy running / my shoes a blur
I had something to tell you / Didn’t know where you were
In ‘The Start of Nothin’ he manages to paint a portrait of a past relationship with simple phrasings that accumulate to tell a full story of a character running from something, inexplicably, but continuing on anyway. Each note of the picked acoustic is engaging, a flurry of notes that fit perfectly. Guitarist Duke Levine’s work on the track is like the glue that pulls everything together, long ringing notes and a solo that isn’t overly extravagant but fits the song absolutely brilliantly. Again, Bradshaw’s warm and mellow voice is the star of the show and one that I will never tire of listening to over and over again.
Personal favorite track from the record is the haunting and reverberating “Crazy Heart”. Like a basin filled with thoughts that plague the mind and heart of a man, but all the while reflecting on the things that make him who he is. Mistakes or triumphs. It has a very sepia tinged, empty barroom feel. It could have been the opening credits for the True Detective season 1 credits…just really something else. It takes me to a place and washes over me with the whole aesthetic of the tune. That is something special, an experience to listen to.
Bradshaw may just have one of the finest voices in modern day Americana music. It seems effortless but is always strong and seamless. His latest record further cements this songwriter as a talent within the Boston community and beyond and puts his keen ear for a great, catchy hook and clean, pleasing arrangements on full display.
And from other recent reviews:
Allan McKay of Musicriot UK says: “Bradshaw's voice is the real selling-point for the album: it’s warm and soulful and the close-miking creates a very intimate feel that shifts seamlessly from the silky, Chris Isaak-like Crazy Heart to the Bob Seger feel of the album’s perfect closing track, The Long Ride Home.”
Vickye Fisher in a review in For The Country Record also writes of the “soulful” qualities of the album's “great songs.” She characterizes Crazy Heart as “country noir”, A Fool Who Cries as “punchy roots rock.” Losing You, she says, has “southern rock strut”, Dream is a “lovely lullaby”, and Sparrow is “intriguingly experimental folk.”
Iain Patience, who reviewed the album in Fatea Records UK, writes of Bradshaw's “keen ear” for the “traditions of country music.” He says Bradshaw's lyrics ring “true and straight”, mentions “strong” vocals, and writes: “The songs themselves have a positively late sixties/early seventies side to them while remaining rooted in modern country/Americana with Bradshaw's lyricism at times hypnotically catchy. This is a guy who can sure write and play in the modern Americana tradition with complete ease, bags of quality and evocative confidence.”
Dave Simpson in Puremzine says that the album is “full of feeling and fervour.”
And Danny McCloskey writes in The Alternate Root: “Whatever You Wanted shows the benefits of reading, writing, and rambling as Bob Bradshaw picks melodies that offer dark Americana (The Start of Nothin'), meaty mountain music (Sparrow), Alt Country (Losing You), and Folk Rock on the title track. The album slides into Go Get Along duetting on a Country and Western break-up reel as Bob packs the van with memories of a job well done for The Long Ride Home.”
It's often hard to make coherent translations of European reviews but here's a few key comments:
Holland's AltCountry says Bradshaw is a “controlled singer-songwriter with soul in his thunder.” Germany's Hooked On Music calls Whatever You Wanted a 'rich, folky” album. Il Popolo Del Blues from Italy says Bradshaw's “style touches many strings between country, tex-mex, swing and soul.” AltCountry from Belgium calls Bradshaw a “songwriter of the better kind”, compares him to Ryan Adams, and singles out the “hypnotic” Crazy Heart. Belgium's Keys and Chords says that Bradshaw has a “very strong voice and is surrounded by magnificent musicians”, compares him to Chris Isaak and says that Bradshaw “travels with class across the contemporary musical landscape.” Rootstime from Belgium admires the “momentum” he has built up as an “interpreter of Americana”, compares him to Los Lobos, and singles out The Start Of Nothin' as a “sure-fire hit.”
SOME AIRPLAY AT THE BEGINNING ON THIS YEAR:
Americana songwriter and singer Bob Bradshaw has spent twenty-five years exploring the music of his adopted country, and it's all on display in his new album 'Whatever You Wanted'- roots-rock, western swing, country soul, and acoustic ballads reminiscent of the great songwriters who inspire him: John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.
Raised in Ireland and educated in bar-rooms, clubs and honky tonks across the United States – and at Boston's Berklee College of Music from which he graduated in 2009. This new album, Bob's sixth, contains his characteristically earnest, evocative, cinematic songs - songs about relationships and identity, songs about loss and hope, songs about songs.
Produced by Bradshaw and main co-writer and bassist Scoop McGuire, 'Whatever You Wanted' is full of Bradshaw's soulful singing accompanied by some of the best musicians around. Highlights include Duke Levine's spooky, spare guitar on the noirish 'Crazy Heart' and his bluesy playing on the hard-driving 'Losing You'; Duncan Wickel's cello and fiddle on the mischievous, rhythmically playful 'Sparrow'; Annalise Emerick's sassy singing on the western-swing duet 'Go Get Along'; Scott Aruda's trumpet and Joe Stewart's trombone on the wry 'A Fool Who Cries' and on 'Before' a stately lament for a lost friend, which also features Duncan Wickel's haunting strings; Chad Manning's atmospheric twin fiddles on 'Go Get Along'; Flynn's acoustic guitar on the jaunty 'Whatever You Wanted'; James Rohr's elegaic piano on the album's wistful final track 'The Long Ride Home'; and Francisco Matas' inventive drumming and percussion-playing throughout. Not to mention the stellar ensemble playing on the yearning 'The Start of Nothin', the sweet, poignant 'Dream', and the 70's pensive soul of 'Sad Songs'
Previous reviews have praised Bradshaw's music as “spare yet abundant…. sometimes suddenly, startlingly nimble” (Sean Walsh, BIR) and singled out its “quiet symphony of ghostly and evanescent airs” (Mark Tucker, FAME). His songwriting has “more than enough beauty and inventiveness to lift the coldest heart” (David Kleiner, Minor 7th.com) and has “spare, engaging melodies, catchy hooks and inspired lyrics… however he lays down their content – swift or slow, abrupt or extended, exultant or heart-rending (Tom Franks, Folkwords UK). And Taxi Music has called Bradshaw “a cross between Ray Davies, Randy Newman and Ryan Adams.”
CD and digital downloads: CD Baby.
Available October 12th on iTunes in a special Mastered For iTunes version!
Interview and songs with Doug Gesler on WMBR