The music is warm and rich but we find Bradshaw’s vocals a little dry (which we would also find fault with Bread over), but there’s a lot going on. He has lots of ideas and the band is good, his voice just fails to excite us. That aside, it’s a meaty album with a lot for your ears to get their tympanic cavities into.
Bradshaw plays Americana with a splash of blues but also less common rhythms thrown in. The album is a concept — a “fever dream” according to Bradshaw — of 13 connected songs in which a cast of characters explore issues of “identity, struggle with loss, and … redemption”. The Queen of The West — Ruby Black — is a gun-toting femme fatale and an anguished mother pleading with the saints for the life of her son.
The first couple of songs sound like long forgotten sixties minor classics. There’s some wit, too: as the narrator climbs the stairs to see Ruby, he notes: “Do I bless myself twice before climbing the stairs / She’s a light sleeper / And a better shot them me.” The instrumentation is rootsy and what you might expect in a Western — fiddles etc — but there’s a guitar solo that echoes Pink Floyd.
The opener is Queen of The West, followed by a slower song with some fiddle, Role of a Lifetime, that role being the QotW.
Track Ruby Black changes tack and gets more interesting, with a more rolling, bluesy beat and off-kilter shuffle. This is deliberate: away from the melodrama of QotB, Ruby is in church praying for her child.
1-800-Saint is narrated by St Christopher and is a song that better suits his voice (and will later improve your appreciation of tracks one and two). And so it goes, through to Ruby’s plea to head east and the closer, set in the modern day.
He’s got his own sound, the story giving it a theatrical air, mixed with Americana and blues.
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