from BLURT MAGAZINE 3/30/18:
In the “not what you expected” department, Bob Bradshaw delivers an eyebrow-raiser on American Echoes – 12 tasty originals defying traditional categorization. While the disc’s peculiar cover art might suggest a New Age outing as the inside sleeve conjures the Old West, you’d be hard-pressed to connect either image to the music found inside. American Echoes is, instead, a fully realized collection of masterful songs and fully fleshed-out arrangements that feature an impressive cast of like-minded musicians. Admittedly, it may take some time for these songs to glue themselves to your brain because there’s so much going on, both musically and lyrically – but they will, eventually proving irresistible. Like wet puppies in a rainstorm.
It’s Bradshaw’s vocals that hit you first. His is not an immediately likeable voice – but herein lies its charm and appeal as you come to know him. A mongrel of sorts – you swear you’ve heard this voice before. Darden Smith? Richard Shindell? Think more of a non-alcoholic Robert Earl Keen – a warm, laidback tone with all its rough edges worn off. A disparate collection of songs, each sounds unlike the one before it. The hooks are subtle, but they’re there – the type which sink their roots deeper and deeper with continued listening. So Bradshaw is hard to peg. Why do you need to? An honest singer-songwriter of poetic proportions, he seems both blessed and cursed with a world-weary outlook and a voice to match.
His music is more beautiful than it is cool, a throwback to the ‘60s in some ways. Born in Cork, Ireland, Bradshaw’s time spent in America (Boston) has paid off in his ability to chronicle the good, the bad and the ugly – many of the characters in these songs read like entries from a diary. Mix in the lessons he’s learned from Berklee and it’s quite understandable why Bradshaw dances to a different drummer. He’s a skilled storyteller, painting elaborate pictures as an observer more than he is the subject of each song, arousing our interest as he chronicles each vignette. He’s been there – as have we all.
Kicking off with “Exotic Dancers Wanted”, you’re instantly engulfed by warm, acoustic bass and gentle piano as a full tapestry of acoustic and electric guitar joins Britt Connors and Annie Lynch’s lush backup vocals. Bradshaw mirrors an intersection of Keen to John Prine, possessed of all the confidence in the world, owning the end result. Likewise, “Meet Me” presents a beguiling invitation which leans on Connors’ background vocal as Andrew Stern turns in a tasty, country-dipped solo on electric guitar, all set against the burbling keys of James Rohr’s electric piano. You might pay special attention to the drums and percussion work of Mike Connors, who repeatedly brings much more to the party than a mere beat. A comparably darker “Call It What You Will” is buoyed by Rohr’s delicate touch on piano, lifted further by keyboardist/ co-writer Scoop McGuire. Britt Connors’ mournful vocal support helps darken the clouds behind this stormy relationship despite McGuire’s odd choice of synth. Cue the more upbeat, ”The Assumptions We Make”, driven by the strumming of Bradshaw’s acoustic guitar, challenged by the electric guitar and resonator work of co-writer, Andy Santospago and abetted by Stern. Rohr’s B3 provides real body to the mix over the rhythm section of Ed Lucie and Mike Connors.
Next, audition the downright peculiar, almost angular, “Workin’ On My Protest Song”, which features the dynamic, exploratory, spidery guitar of Andrew Stern and the soft, combined hush of backup singers Connors and Lynch. As Mike Connors provides a powerful foundation of soothing percussion in African proportions, the chorus breaks to reveal one of this disc’s true highlights. The addition of Chad Manning’s fiddle to “A Bird Never Flew on Just One Wing” provides a country feel as Bradshaw’s vocal preens, Keen-like, over Stern’s tough guitar sound and Connors’ fat backbeat. Suddenly, Bradshaw rocks out with a guitar-driven “Weight of the World” which, more Beatles than Petty, more Mellencamp than Seger, commands a charm of its own for the trucker in all of us. Co-writer/lead guitarist Andrew Stern is clearly off his leash and this pounding power ballad offers a distinctive wake-up call – right down to its cowbell – marking the album’s halfway point. Alternately, “Stella” proves an intoxicating love song in the form of a waltz, bathed in Rohr’s B3, Stern’s soothing electric guitar with Rohr doubling up on accordion. “My Double And I” features the sparring, double guitars of Stern and Santospago, offering up wah-wah and lead accompaniment, built around an odd, jazz-fueled swing beat. The more melancholy “Material For The Blues” celebrates the invisible bruises of the heart, reinforced by Manning’s country fiddle and Annie Lynch’s ghosted vocal support. (Take special note of Andy Santospago’s seductive baritone guitar break.) “O Brother” incorporates a slide guitar technique (Stern) that could’ve fallen from George Harrison’s trickbag, yet this device, together with Bradshaw’s bent lyrics, succeeds in conjuring a doomed, too-casual relationship between two strangers championing distinctly opposite needs. The Celtic-edged “Old Soldiers” erupts like American bedrock – all fiddle, banjo and military snare, adding meat to the old adage that, for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, will live forever.
Bob Bradshaw is clearly a different breed of singer-songwriter who has spent a lifetime honing his craft – invested as he is in each and every song. Lovers. Losers. Dreamers and derelicts collide with the hopeful and the helpless. They’re all lovingly depicted here in their stark beauty, wrapped in a readily-identifiable reality – as observed in exacting detail by a writer with the power to see in from the outside, while experiencing life from both sides to be able to tell their tales so convincingly. - ERIC THOM
from Boston Irish Reporter 4/27/17:
Bob Bradshaw, “American Echoes” • Bradshaw, a Cork native now living in Boston, is thoroughly in his groove with this, his seventh album. His brand of country-rock/acoustic folk-pop is enriched by a songwriting approach that can be observational (“Exotic Dancers Wanted,” “Call It What You Will”), introspective (“Material for the Blues”), economical yet eloquent (“O Brother”), sly (“Workin’ On My Protest Song”) and endearingly tender (“Meet Me,” “Stella”).
While Bradshaw has often shared author credits – here with several others, including longtime collaborator Scoop Maguire, on 10 of the 12 tracks – there’s never been any question that the songs are his. A lot of them are set in the paradigmatic rough section of town, amidst dive bars, diners, and coffee shops that probably never had better days to see (“Different names on different nights/Candi, Dixie, Annabelle/What’s written in the lights/Whatever thrills the clientele”), but there’s nothing salacious or voyeuristic in the tone; Bradshaw doesn’t invite pity for or judgment on the characters, just our attention, perhaps our empathy.
Bradshaw’s supporting cast for “American Echoes” is slightly different, notably including electric guitarists Andrew Stern and Andy Santospago, who bring a strong rock presence to songs like “Weight of the World,” “The Assumptions We Make” and “O Brother.” A welcome returnee is keyboardist James Rohr, contributing a graceful piano to “Call It What You Will” and a warm Hammond organ to “Stella.”
Unquestionably, one of the album’s lyrical highlights is “My Double and I,” a wonderfully wry lament for the age of identity theft and dissociation set to a jazzy rhythm, Stern’s wah-wah electric guitar accentuating the song’s sense of absurdity: “My double and I rarely meet/When we do it’s a touchy matter/We both try to cross the street/Neither one of us is flattered”; “Then there was this girl who’d seen us/She ended up in therapy/When I made her choose between us/She said he pretended he was me.”
To close out the album, Bradshaw shifts gears again with “Old Soldiers,” a simple, dignified ode to veterans (and a welcome contrast to puffed-up pseudo-anthems that stoke patriotism’s worst excesses) carried along by Mike Connors’s soft regimental drumming and Chad Manning’s gentle fiddling. You can practically envision a Ken Burns-like montage as Bradshaw speaks to soldiers’ humanity, rather than their deeds (“Old soldiers on old horses/on faded trails of chivalry”).
In typically modest fashion, Bradshaw said a couple of years ago that he’s learned to get “out of my own way” in his songwriting – his goal being “to write a song that apparently wrote itself.” But Bradshaw can, and should, take full credit for his work – and those who appreciate a good songwriter should take notice of “American Echoes.” - Sean Smith
from NO DEPRESSION 11/16/17:
It is hard to call Bob Bradshaw a folkie but even the rockers on American Echoes scream folk. Bob Bradshaw must be one of the musicians who forced the whole Americana genre--- those who fit into various categories depending upon song because he certainly does not fit a mold. Forget that his voice and writing styles reflect a cross between Jeff Finlin and Paul Curreri, two singer/songwriters of immense talent. Forget that he delves into territory seldom entered--- that of emotional and lyrical gold. Forget that he is from Cork, Ireland but sounds much more like he is from Boston, a city he has lived in since 2003. Forget everything. You listen to American Echoes and you hear Bob Bradshaw, musician/poet, and for those moments, that's all you need.
Bradshaw has a hand in every song on the album but only claims the opener and closer for himself: “Exotic Dancers Wanted,” a look at the dark personal side of strippers and their followers, so to speak, and “Old Soldiers” who never die because they just fade away. Sandwiched between those songs are ten written in collaboration with others, a few which could easily be called classic. “Call It What You Will” (video above), a moody, bumpy, rhythmic ride through the chafe of relationships; “The Assumptions We Make,” a mixture of folk and rock produced to perfection; “Working On My Protest Song,” a bit of jazzy folk dissonance between major chord progressions (a song well within the Paul Curreri wheelhouse); “Weight of the World,” the one real rocker on the album (pure rock 'n' roll); “My Double and I,” a slinky, jazzy and humorous comparison of doppelganger personalities (very Randy Newman); and “Oh Brother,” a song I am still processing and a song I am loving while doing it.
I could see this one slipping through the cracks just because Bradshaw is so varied in his approach to each song, but it could also easily be a Sleeper. One of those albums you never give its just due until you realize that you have been playing it more than anything else in your collection. I give it the status of Paul Curreri's The Big Shitty, a collection of songs so unique I doubt I will ever hear their like again. Some of Bradshaw's songs are immediate classics in my mind. The kind of songs songwriters and musicians listen to. The kind of songs which become part of your DNA.
From Real Roots Cafe - 12/9/16
A more than excellent singer-songwriter, the born Irishman Bob Bradshaw, who now resides for about 15 years in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The fact that making music is taken seriously proves the fact that he graduated - many years older than his classmates - in 2009 at the famous Berklee College of Music (in Boston). As sources of inspiration he mentions the Americana giants Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, John Hiatt, Steve Earle and John Prine. Listening to the song 'Workin' on my protest song 'of the beautiful new CD, I want to add Paul Simon to this list. On the occasion of his previous CD, Whatever You Wanted (2015), I wrote: 'Bradshaw brings a lot of variation on his new CD. A cross-pollination of pop, rock, country, soul and you name it! Great CD, good songs, great voice, great accompaniment! "And I think he has only gotten better on this 'American Echoes'. Bob treats a dozen fine songs, in which he again discusses all the angles of the Americana. Important in the accompaniment is guitarist (electric) Andrew Stern, in addition there is James Rohr on various keys and accordion (and vocals) and of course more guitars, bass and drums / percussion. Occasionally we hear fiddle (Chad Manning !!), lap steel, glockenspiel, and banjo. In his texts, Bob - like many of his colleagues, draws from his own experiences with events and encounters with others. The bar life is discussed in 'Exotic Dancers Wanted' and 'Meet Me' (at the bar like the westside on eleventh). Nice is his subtle ode to 'Old soldiers never die': 'Old soldiers never die, they fade away. It's written in their DNA, no need to ask me why old soldiers never die ', nicely enlivened by fiddle and banjo. Wonderful CD, this seventh from Bradshaw. Go listen and be enchanted by this great songwriter. Great CD, this seventh by Bob Bradshaw. Take a listen and let him enchant you with his songs and stories. - Fred Schmale
From The Morton Report, 11/3/17:
There are most likely hundreds of strong singer-songwriters lurking in America, playing shows where they live, recording albums the best they can and believing in themselves enough to keep going. Some have even come here from other countries, knowing they need to be in the land where rock & roll started, and where it still finds its most welcoming home. Bob Bradshaw moved to America from Ireland, and eventually made his way to Boston, where he went to the Berklee College of Music in classes with students half his age. That was okay, because he was driven to learn and then write songs that deserved to be heard. After a handful of albums and bands, Bradshaw has made the album to define his life. That an Irishman would use the word "American" in the title shows how strong he wants to express how things are now. These are songs that crawl up the back and wrap themselves around the neck, sending feelings to places that aren't easy to find. The man is clearly in thrall of writers like Jack Kerouac and Nelson Algren, but at the same time he has forged his own language. That's what matters most, along with a voice that is inspired in its intercontinental flavor and enquiring eye. In a year full of albums that sound like they'll live forever, Bob Bradshaw has made one of the best. Emeralds for all - Bill Bentley.
From SundayExpress UK, 10/22/17
Irish-born Bradshaw based himself in America, enrolling in the Berklee College Of Music to hone his songwriting craft.
The result, on this seventh album, is a frequently spellbinding blend of country and nuanced rock with a winning lushness in the instrumentation and backing vocals.
The opening Exotic Dancers Wanted owes more than a nod to Tom Waits but A Bird Never Flew On Just One Wing and the genuinely funny My Double And I showcase a highly original talent.
from Red Line Roots 10/23/17:
"Bob Bradshaw walks a fine line. The tone of his voice floating over the arrangements of his songs is familiar and inviting, but still incredibly unique in the landscape of music we are all currently dwelling in. His songs roll off his lips and into a listeners ears in a seemingly effortless fashion, but if you know the songwriter on any sort of personal level you realize the dedication and persistence that went into each recorded note in the studio or each word that hit the page. This month sees a new record from the Irish born singer called “American Echoes” and from the press rolling already, it promises to be Bradshaw’s most prolific and introspective album to date.
Bradshaw’s 2015 release, “Whatever You Wanted” encompassed a real atmospheric vibe and this latest effort offers up a bit of the same. A keen focus on penning a song that will stick and bringing in some of the most renowned studio musicians that the Northeast has to offer, no element goes without careful consideration on this new one…not that we would expect anything less from Bob." - Brian Carroll.
from FATEA 10;25/17:
From Red Guitar 10/19/17:
I have recently taken up photography as a hobby, not digital, but on film. I am shunning “Auto” and taking time to compose each shot, being choosy about what I take, as the roll is not infinite. As such, each shot becomes treasured, even if it does not come out as expected. Bob Bradshaw’s new album, ‘American Echoes’, has the feeling of a treasured photo album crammed with fond memories and experiences. Indeed, Bradshaw started his journey in America, which has led to the content of ‘American Echoes’, way back in 1989. It is a product of the people, places and venues he has visited and the experiences he has had in his adopted homeland. It draws on classic American genres ranging from country and folk to bluegrass and the blues. The album is a celebration and a document of the dreamers, poets and sinners that he has met on his journey across the nation’s landscape.
Bradshaw, an Irish born singer/songwriter, is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, gaining his degree of Professional Music in 2009. This “official” accreditation of his abilities is underpinned by years of experience as a self-taught player performing in the streets of Europe as well as in U.S. cover bands, bar bands, and in his own San Francisco Band, Resident Aliens. Evidence of this experience on the road and as a graduate professional, feeds into the sound and lyrics found on ‘American Echoes’. The new album follows critical acclaim for the predecessors ‘Home’ in 2013 and 2015’s ‘Whatever You Wanted’, which was named by the Telegraph as one of the best Americana/Country albums of the year. It was credited as “a wonderful paced example of how he has lifted the sights, sounds and moods if America and sparkled them with originality” (Pennyblack Music). ‘American Echoes’ is a compelling development of this theme.
The album’s atmospheric opener, ‘Exotic Dancers Wanted’ is a perfect example of the aforementioned theme. The title itself conjures the image of a badly pinned advert on the outside of a slightly drab dancing club. Elements of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Wrestler’ and the poetic storytelling of Bob Dylan can be found here. Bradshaw’s lyrical camera drifts from punter to punter as their mini biographies are laid before the listener. The gentle, lapping almost lazy summer's day rhythm and tinkling piano provides the light backdrop for the sordid stories within. Parallels are drawn between the club and the world outside, from which the clientele are desperate to escape, if only for a few hours. The heady, alcohol soaked ambience is captured in the lyric: “Freddie in the front row, not quite yet a man, got the hots for Dixie, he’s drinkin’ it all in. Wonders: will I ever get to tell the dancers from the dance?” Bradshaw is sympathetic to the dancers, though candid about the reality of the club that they need the punters as much as the punters need the dancers “Her pockets filled with dollar bills a flask of whiskey and some pills. Hell, even she can’t tell the dancers from the dance…”
‘Meet me’ shares territory with Richard Hawley’s ‘Coles Corner’, albeit a different take on a similar theme - the heartbreaking search for companionship in the faceless metropolis. The endless list of meeting locations, suggesting new dates each time, indicates each one in turn has failed to develop to anything more than a one off encounter. “...meet me downtown, any place, anytime…” The heartfelt lyric is given greater gravitas by Andrew Stern’s sweeping guitar. The eagerness for intimacy and self sacrifice to find it is all too evident “I’ll be waiting for you, don’t you worry. I’ll be there before you if I hurry...Eastside, Westside, anyplace you got in mind. Tell me when, tell me where. I’ll be there.”
‘Call It What You Will’ opens with a drumbeat reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s take on ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. This track would not sound out of place on Sting’s seminal ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’. A haunting and standout track, there are shades of John Martyn to Bradshaw’s vocal which is backed by beautiful harmonies from Britt Connors and the gentle tumbling piano solo of James Rohr. “Things got a little stormy up in the sky…” the turbulent relationship laid bare in the lyrics is metaphorically represented by the moon (she) and the sun (he) and the unravelling of a once harmonious union. As with the timeless battle between the moon and the sun for precedence, she has been exhausted by the relentless challenge of the partnership “The moon is sad and frazzled, she’s not the fightin’ kind. She’s worn out by his cruel and fiery ways...”. While the conflict seems inescapable the moon (she) longs for release “You can call it what you will, but I can’t wait until it’s over.”
‘Assumptions’ shares some of its DNA with Pete Droge and the Sinners “Beautiful Girl”, with Bradshaw’s vocal recalling Guy Garvey at his most tender. It is a companion piece to ‘Meet Me’ yet, rather than the self sacrifice seen in that song, here our protagonist has more self preservation. “And you won’t understand how meticulous plans come to nothing, how assumptions are made, and how you must go on alone.” The close harmonies in the chorus give way to a glorious guitar solo in the bridge. It is an ode to lost love and what could have been. “Here’s to the journey, that was not ours to take…” Gently moving, profound and will have fans searching out the repeat button, time and again.
‘Weight of the World’ opens with a Beatle-esque ‘Day Tripper’ guitar solo; full throttle rock with Mark Knopfler echoed in Bradshaw’s effortlessly commanding vocal. A foot tapping, jukebox favourite celebrating truckers, a love affair with insomnia and the wee hours of the morning. “Clock tells me it’s three o three, and I’ve been lyin’ here prayin’ I’d see the daylight...I’m carrying the weight, ferrying the freight, carrying the weight of the world.” It is dancefloor friendly and no doubt the staple of live sets with searing electric guitar and infectious drumming of Mike Connors. Only thing is at only 2.32 it is over much too soon!
In stark contrast, it is followed by the beautiful ‘Stella’. Again, there are hints of Richard Hawley here and the lush teenage dream of Rick Nelson’s ‘Lonesome Town’. It is an unapologetically romantic serenade to the lady of the title and the impact she has had on our protagonist; “I came outta’ my shell for ya, now you see I am dancin’ too.” The lyric encompasses giving all of yourself to one person and falling hopelessly in love. “Feelin’ light on my feet ‘round ya, Stella. Maybe we can find the beat together, one step away, Stella. What do you say, Stella. Take my hand and lead me there where you are.” This track is shortly followed by its bookend - ‘Material For The Blues’. It is a lullaby marking the creativity sparked by solitude, yet is similarly romantic. The storyteller hides the unfulfilled relationships and half forgotten dates behind a firm exterior and draws on this emotional fuel for his craft. “There are no marks, you see no bruise, my world’s a silent house filled with material for the blues.”
Regarding the album’s title Bradshaw himself states: “[As echoes] these songs travel forwards and backwards at the same time...backwards to the folk and country music that first inspired me to sing and write songs, and forwards into more complex, layered sounds I encountered in Berklee.” ‘American Echoes’ is an important crossroads for Bradshaw; like a well thumbed journal, it lays down a rich melting pot of collated ideas and signals the beginning of a new stage in his musical journey. Based on this remarkable collection of songs, fans of Americana and Country should watch Bradshaw’s next step with great anticipation.
Review by Jon Amer.
from Blues And More Again 10/12/17:
Albums where every track is of estimable quality, with no filler don’t come along too often, but American Echoes more than satisfies these enjoyment criteria.
On this, his seventh studio album, Bob Bradshaw corrals together the diverse human experiences of misfits and everyday blue-collar protagonists, well-crafted insightful lyrics and memorable melodies, entirely from the mere eleven notes available to him. All the while, he demonstrates that he has mastered the songwriter’s art of narrating personal, or imagined personal dramas that resonate with recognisable universal experience.
We share his tale of a reluctant but resourceful entertainer and her detachment from the sleazy clientele, in ‘Exotic Dancers Wanted’, and experience the finely-tooled radio-friendly pop of 'Meet Me’ and 'The Assumptions We Make'. And whilst there is thoughtful minor key brooding in 'Call It What You Will', Bradshaw’s wry sentiment comes to the fore in 'Material For The Blues', ‘My Double And I’ and 'Workin' On My Protest Song’, the latter’s swinging chorus an infectious sing-along.
And if the earworm ‘Oh Brother’ and waltz-time ‘Stella’ aren’t written from personal experience, Bradshaw has the well-developed dramatic gift of making the listener believe that they most definitely are.
There’s a deliberate spaciousness about the recording, Bradshaw’s own production allowing the songs the air needed to be heard with welcome clarity. A word of praise too for his studio band. Little flourishes like Andy Santospago’s baritone guitar on 'The Assumptions We Make', and understated rock out as 'Workin' On My Protest Song’ concludes, add depth and flavour, as does James Rohr’s perfectly-structured and executed piano coda as ‘Call It What You Will’ edges to its glorious fade.
Contemporary troubadours such as Tom Russell, Ben Rogers and Nathan Bell excel in the creation and performance of such narratives, and the recorded legacy of the great Greg Trooper comforts us that we lived in his time. Bob Bradshaw deserves to be mentioned in that company.
From 'Maximum Volume Music' 10/10/17: