[Artist Spotlight]: Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley“I thank you for helping me carry on … through the storm”

My last few posts have been quite singer-songwriter/folk oriented, so I thought I would take things up a notch with some new soul, and what better man to crank up the mood than the ‘Screaming Eagle of Soul’, Mr. Charles Bradley?

Along with Lee Fields and Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley forms part of a rearguard of soul music: artists much neglected for most of their career but who are finally getting the attention they deserve with their old-school R&B sound. Bradley’s career in particular is a real underdog story, chronicled in the recent documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America, which unfortunately has yet to see British release. Similar to the documentary Searching For Sugarman that centred on Sixto Rodriguez, with whom Bradley recorded a split 45 last year, Charles Bradley: Soul of America talks about a diamond which was not fully unearthed until way down the line. From leaving his Florida home at the age of 14 Bradley has struggled, living hand to mouth and often in harsh conditions. However, his undiminished ambition to make it as a singer, which persisted through years in mismatched appointments including an extended stint as a James Brown impersonator under the name Black Velvet, finally came to fruition when he teamed up with the Menahan Street Band and Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth to deliver his debut record at the age of 62. Indeed, the title of that album, No Time For Dreaming, could be the injunction Bradley aimed at himself for finally telling his story. If that’s the case then Victim of Love could certainly be Bradley’s response and gesture of gratitude to the overwhelmingly positive public and critical acclaim that No Time For Dreaming has received. 

‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ is a moody and funky track, which showcases Bradley’s hard-hitting delivery and his irrepressible wails. As Bradley struts his stuff, co-writer and guitarist Thomas Brenneck chucks out a percussive guitar rhythm and displays a screaming, fuzzed up solo towards the song’s close. Meanwhile, horn blares from Dave Guy and Leon Michels punctuate Bradley’s preaching vocals and Homer Steinweiss’s outstandingly funky drum part makes sure the song hits you square in the guts. It is one of the standout tracks from the album for me and I strongly recommend you to go out and buy it. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed and you will be supporting an artist whose time may have finally come.

Victim of Love is available now through Daptone Records.

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