A well-crafted album, excellent music and some fine storytelling.
Bob Bradshaw’s last album ‘Queen of The West’ was a concept album with a single story woven through the songs. This time each song on ‘The Ghost Light’ each song has its own story to tell. Bradshaw explains. “I want to tell stories with room for exploration and interpretation. I want people to bring themselves into the songs as much as possible.”
As with pretty much every other album at the moment this is the product of time in lockdown, but the songs are certainly not about the Pandemic. While the focus is rightly on Bradshaw’s words the music as carefully crafted as the lyrics. The Beatles style ‘She’s Gone for Good’ features Andrew Stern’s tremolo guitar. In fact, Stern is the guitar star of the album, his slide work on ‘Gone’ is equally good, and he teams up with Andy Santospago for cracking guitar duel on ‘21st Century Blues’. That song is a good reflection the misbehaviour of the TV news networks “There’s no break in the breaking news. Ain’t that just the 21st century blues”.
Bradshaw’s voice shifts styles to fit his subject matter. On opener ‘Songs on the Radio’ he sounds for all the world like Huey Lewis. “A drive-by radio. An old song I used to know. Sweet sounds from a top-down powder-blue Camaro”. And while he grew up in Ireland this like ‘Sideways’, and a couple of the other songs, sounds like something drawn from life. It comes as no surprise to find that Bradshaw is also a published short story writer. The only slight misstep on the album is ‘Light of the Moon’ which just does not sound as complete as the rest of the songs. ‘The Tom Petty like ‘In the Dark’ which follows that is a darker sounding minor key song. Closing the album is ‘Niagara Barrel Ride Blues’ just Bradshaw and his National steel guitar. ‘Trust my cooper knows his trade. And strapped those hoops on real good”. Brilliant.
The music ranges in style from the soft Country Rock ‘Songs on the Radio’ through the more relaxed groove of ‘Dream’ and ‘Blue’ to the harder driving ‘21st Century Blues’ with players and instruments being swapped about. The album retains a unity that makes ‘The Ghost Light’ another entry in what is turning into a vintage year for Americana. Bradshaw’s press release, clearly looking for a bit of Zeitgeist, plays the pandemic card firmly but this album deserves so much better. While it was born of hard times, it is not about them, the songs are definitely “timeless”, and this could be one of the albums from 2021 that moves beyond the circumstances of its making to become a classic.