There is a lot to like about Danny Bradley’s freshman release, ‘Small Talk Songs’.
Bradley’s guitar playing is a delight. His original compositions easily merge traditional folk and bluegrass with the blues. One can hear why he is in demand as a session musician. He has a clear voice that works well with his music and he is adventurous with his lyrics.
Bradley tells many different stories. His lyrics are a mix of narrative passages and snapshots — sometimes with somewhat forced rhymes — that for the most part invite you into different moments. That said, not every tale seems to match the telling of it. The ‘Bargain’, the sad tale of a plea bargain, for instance, seems mismatched to a Bassa Nova sound.
He generally works a Blues vibe and works it well. Some of his lines echo old Blues classics. ‘Pulling Free’, for instance, notes: “Another fight Is within sight at the end of the line tonight.” And ‘Balcony Birds’ laments: “You been out the door/ Not long, my love/ And I don’t know what to do.” In ‘Company Paper’, he addresses a modern dilemma in blues form. He adds to his Blues cred by covering Memphis Mini’s ‘Kissing in the Dark’ and a bluesy version on the Bluegrass standard, ‘Sitting on Top of the World’. But he also plays great folk tunes and his voice seems to fit that genre even better than the blues. His version of the classic ‘Shady Grove’ is a great example of that match up.
Bradley saves the best for last. In ‘I’m Gone, I’m Gone’ Bradley brings it all home, the light- hearted wordplay well matched with his clear voice and the traditional folk lilt of his guitar. Not every song hits it out of the park, but ‘Small Talk Songs’ is a really good first effort overall.