With a voice like Elvis Costello and a cast of characters from a television mini-series, it’s difficult not to fall in love with Bob Bradshaw’s new album. At times if feels conceptual, names and references crop up over and over, piecing together a coherent story set against Americana music based around guitar, lap steel, fiddle and an ever-evolving rhythm section – check out the rhythmic patterns on ‘Ruby Black’ that brings a skewed Hitchcock-style feel to the song.
Throughout the album there are hints and glimpses of the off-kilter, something doesn’t sit quite right in the world Bradshaw has made and it’s all the richer for it, it’s a world of forked tongues and people not telling the complete truth, but scratch a little deeper and tiny clues reveal themselves. It’s a clever album, in part an honest, straight up Americana album (check out the country-by-numbers ‘Albuquerque’) but at other times a solid piece of evidence in supporting the fact that music can be much more than a bunch of songs thrown together.
It requires more than a single listen, a little like a David Lynch movie it deserves repeat visits to truly get to the centre of the album. There is a helpline for assistance from St.Christopher, Anthony or ‘Tommy’ – who, although lives in his car, is the man to call on in times of trouble – and then there is the Queen of the West herself, Ruby Black, who one moment is a worried mother praying for her son’s life and the next she is a gun-toting femme fatale (oh and if the comic book style album cover is to be taken literally, also a long distance bus!). Strange indeed but these are the things that make the album so interesting.
The music would suit a road trip, from the optimistic opening songs ‘Queen of the West’ and ‘Role of a Lifetime’ through the unfolding of the story in ‘1-800-SOSAINT’ and ‘Wearing of the Black’ to the final destination of ‘Take Me To The East’ and ‘Your Song’. My advice is start the engine, put on the album and see where the road takes you, better still, leave the car at home and take the bus.