How quick the memory fades with the heatwave of the summer already feeling like a distant memory as autumn flexes its muscles treating tonight’s congregation to gale force winds and lashing rain as they arrive at the Town Hall, Kirton In Lindsey, for this evening’s performance from Danny Bradley. In fact it could be assumed that the inclement weather is as much the culprit as is the economic climate for the slightly fewer numbers than usual in the audience as Bradley has long since earned his stripes at Lincolnshire’s premier Americana venue, supporting many headline acts over the previous eight years to now take his deserved place in the spotlight.
Bradley originally hails from Hull, though he was actually born in America, and for the last five years has resided in Liverpool and is currently promoting his debut album ‘Small Talk Songs’ which came out at the end of last year and received a favourable review in these pages. He performs alone, just voice and guitar, but such is his range and dexterity that he is less a one man band and more a one man orchestra with the myriad of sounds that emanate from what looks like an ordinary acoustic instrument. His demeanour on stage is relaxed without ever looking totally at ease as the focus of attention, while his between song banter is less banter and more polite conversation that reveals a sharp and well educated mind.
Tonight’s show is made up mostly of tracks from ‘Small Talk Songs’ with numbers such as ‘If Ever He Blinks’ and ‘All Over The Floor’, quickly setting the tone and highlighting Bradley’s sublime vocal range, which can either be powerful, though never forced, or alternatively quiet and reflective, but always clear in diction, somewhat reminiscent of the late Jeff Buckley. Amongst other tracks from the album included in tonight’s shows is ‘Michelin Star’ which tells the tale of a homeless person sleeping outside a Michelin starred restaurant in Liverpool during a snowstorm, focusing on the tragedy and absurdity as well as the reality that, “There for the grace of God go I”. Throughout all his songs Bradley displays a keen awareness of the world around him with an emotive consciousness and a poetic soul, while, on ‘Fire & Muse’, he finds the opportunity to put his university degree to good use by taking Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and giving it a very modern twist.
Tonight’s set list included two new songs, the first, Timothy Carlisle’, closely followed by, ‘I Know fire’. Both strong numbers that sit comfortably alongside the more familiar songs and which augur well for future releases. Interspersed with the original material was a sprinkling of re-interpretations of more familiar works such as the much covered traditional number ‘Shady Grove’ as well as a version of Willie Dixon’s ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’, both of which appear on the recent album. In each case Bradley sprinkles his own brand of magic rearranging the songs’ structure without straying to far from the original melody, retaining a familiarity beneath a fresh arrangement. Bradley’s playing delivers both fluidity as well as a percussive pulse that helps drive everything forward, but it is never rushed, utilising space as dextrously as he utilises notes and chords. At the core of his playing is a clear love of the blues, not just on the Dixon cover but throughout his whole repertoire. However this is very much blues guitar playing for the twenty-first century UK, identifying and engaging with his surroundings in a similar way to the blues guitar players a hundred years before, relating to their world and lifes in the cotton fields of the southern states of the U.S. The appreciative and raucous response from the audience as Bradley completed his set comes as no surprise, demanding an encore that he duly obliges. What might have surprised a few people was his choice of closing number, a cover of the Boomtown Rats ‘I don’t like Mondays’, which he delivers in his own inimitable style, bringing a fabulous night to a close.
Kicking off the night’s proceedings were ‘A Different Thread’ who are made up of Robert Jackson from Lichfield and Alicia Best who originally hails from Durham, North Carolina and who first met whilst busking over on the west coast of Ireland back in 2016. Deciding to join forces their combined sound embraces a mix of English and American folk music, sharing a similar musical territory to that of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Tonight’s set list is made up of songs from their debut album ‘On A Whim’ that came out in 2018, and ‘Call Of The Road’, which was released earlier this month. Jackson plays guitar and harmonica, whilst Best is in charge of percussion, both sharing lead vocals and together delivering some delightful harmonies. To help flesh the sound out on the night the duo were joined by Birmingham’s very own Mike Seal on double bass and the trio very quickly had the audience on side with selections from the new album such as ‘Didn’t Wanna Go’, and the title track proving most popular. Another highlight was a stunning version of ‘Potter’s Field’ which originally appeared on the debut album and was also warmly received from the appreciative crowd, suggesting a return visit by the trio in the not too distant future would be most welcome.