Bob Bradshaw
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Bob Bradshaw

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Folk Americana




"Review of Home"

There’s a stirring edge to Bradshaw’s new album ‘Home’ - an edge doubtless reinforced by the experiences of the expedition from his native Ireland across north and south Europe and into America – touching down for a while in San Francisco he settled in Boston. Now together with a group of gifted musicians Bob has created a fine album - and it’s clear those travels reflect in its far-ranging, sometimes anguished, occasionally hopeful and always engaging songs. These are chronicles about life that could be yours or mine and you’ll feel that connection in every word. Bob sings his moving lyrics with an economical, laid bare style that cuts all the more deeply through a distinct mid-Atlantic twang that fits perfectly with his brand of Americana folk.

The album has a rich mix of sparse, engaging melodies, catchy hooks and inspired lyrics - from the beautifully architectured essence of ‘High Water Risin’ and the sadness of ‘Talkin’ About My Love For You’ through the hope and anticipation of ‘Take Me To The East’ and the incipient sadness of ‘The Mourning Dove’. However he lays down their content, swift or slow, abrupt or extended, exultant or heart-rending - Bob delivers songs that will stay with you for some time to come.

-Tom Franks, Folkwords
- Folkwords UK

"Review of Home"

It sounds like the kind of moment only the imagination of a singer-songwriter—like, say, Bob Bradshaw—might cook up, only it really happened. The quick lead-in: Irish native moves to the US at the tail end of the 1980s, pursues a musical career that eventually lands him in Boston, where he decides to apply to, and is accepted by, the Berklee College of Music. Then he has misgivings, so he calls the school to cancel his enrollment.

“The woman at Berklee who answered the phone listened and asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ ” recalls Bradshaw. “I thought for a few seconds and said, ‘No.’ And then I hung up.?“If she hadn’t asked me that question, if she hadn’t made me think about it, I wouldn’t have ended up going to Berklee.”?But Bradshaw did, ushering in another chapter of a career that has often proved to be more interesting than he might’ve thought possible—full of, as he puts it somewhat self-deprecatingly, “sideways or even backward steps.”

The more recent years, coinciding with his time in Boston, have seen Bradshaw focus on his craft in new ways, whether obtaining his degree in professional music from Berklee or gaining a fresh appreciation for the music traditions of his homeland.?“Maybe,” he quips, “I’m the ultimate late bloomer — just figuring it all out now.”?

These and other experiences are distilled in Bradshaw’s newly produced CD, which features 12 songs solely or collaboratively composed by him. Simply and appropriately titled “Home,” the CD represents a meshing of Bradshaw’s past and present through contributions from long-time collaborators like Scoop McGuire (who in addition to playing various instruments also produced and arranged the album) and more recent Boston/Berklee-era acquaintances such as Dan Gurney, Annie Lynch, Duke Levine, and Maeve Gilchrist.?

Bradshaw’s songs are situated comfortably in a country-rock/acoustic folk-pop landscape that has been shaped by influences like Guy Clark and The Waterboys; fiddles, mandolins and accordions—even a harp—provide cross-hatching across guitars, lap steel, bass, keyboards and drums.?His songs can be sparse yet abundant with just-below-the-surface emotion (“Carlos”), keenly observed cautionary tales (“Iowa Girl”), simultaneously fanciful and thoughtful (“Wings of Desire”) and sometimes suddenly, startlingly nimble (“Remember Me”).?

“Long Way to Go”—about the emotional as well as geographical distance a pair of wary lovers must travel—is marked by Gurney’s accordion, acting almost as a soothing counterweight to the angsty elements in the song.?“The song is in F-sharp, and I couldn’t find another accordion player in Boston who could play it the way Dan does,” says Bradshaw. “As far as I’m concerned, the accordion made that song.”?“Wings of Desire,” he says, takes its inspiration from the 1987 Wim Wenders movie of the same name, “about an angel willing to give up his wings”—even if it doesn’t follow the plot. “I’ve always loved that movie, and for years I tried to work it into a song. I thought it would be kind of amusing to have a harp in a song about an angel, so I asked Maeve Gilchrist to sit in, and she did a fantastic job.” The album’s final track, “Mourning Dove,” stemmed from Bradshaw’s participation in a Holocaust-themed play, “Budzin,” that was staged in Harvard’s Sanders Theater. Recruited at first as a guitar player, Bradshaw wound up one of the production’s main actors: a concentration camp inmate who must, literally, perform for his life. The song touches on a succession of powerful emotions, summed up by a masterful couplet of a chorus: “It’s a rising up and laying down/Of a boundless love and a thorny crown.” Therein, Bradshaw says, lies the paradox in many of his compositions.?

“My songs are not autobiographical, but they do incorporate autobiographical elements in them,” he says. “The songs may focus on a particular character, but they’re not me. I may be in the songs, somewhere, but at the same time I want to seem as if I’m not.?“Mostly, they’re simply stories.”?

Born and raised in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, Bradshaw found a model of music appreciation in his father, who “sang at the drop of a hat.” But as a young man, once he decided he wanted to play music, too, and got himself a guitar, Bradshaw looked elsewhere than his own country’s music for inspiration—from American country rock performers like Guy Clark and The Eagles, who in the 1970s were capturing the fancy of many Irish singer-songwriters; fellow countrymen like Mick Hanly and Freddie White also caught Bradshaw’s ear. Bradshaw did have the paradigmatic day job for a while, writing for a local newspaper and, after moving to Dublin, contributing stories to the Irish Press and In Dublin magazine. He even earned a bursary from the Irish Arts Council, and set about trying to write the elusive novel that all writers supposedly have within them. But Bradshaw couldn’t make his novel emerge, and found that, as far as writing went, he had “hit the wall.”

So he turned to music, and hit the road, first going east to Portugal, Spain, Germany, and Sweden, and then west, all the way to New York City and San Francisco. In San Francisco, he found pretty regular pub gigs, but more importantly, for the first time began playing more often with other musicians. This led to the formation of Resident Aliens (whose members included Scoop McGuire and Chad Manning), which built on the American roots sound Bradshaw had been playing to include the 1990s Celtic folk-rock that had come into vogue; that development owed a great deal to a collaboration with legendary singer-songwriter Ron Kavana, who had the Resident Aliens as his back-up band and recorded a live album with them. Most of all, San Francisco was where Bradshaw first dipped his toe into the songwriting pool—somewhat out of necessity, as he explains: “It all started because someone offered to make a CD of us. I felt there was no point in making an album of cover material. So I started putting together some songs. It was all part of an interesting transition in many ways. I had been used to playing in pubs, where you’re mainly concerned with hitting people over the head to get their attention. But when it comes to ‘listening rooms,’ you have to be that much better.” In any case, Bradshaw found he had a knack for songwriting, slow a process as it was, and continues to be: “If I write six songs a year, that’s great for me. And then I seem to spend years tweaking or fiddling with them; I also throw away a lot of them.”

The next, critical part of Bradshaw’s development came after he moved to Boston, when practically on a whim he enrolled in Berklee—a whim he later second-guessed. “I thought, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m in my 40s, I don’t belong there.” But after the fateful phone call that brought him so close to pulling out of Berklee, Bradshaw went all in. He took part in the college’s Celtic ensemble, led by the late John McGann, and Dave Hollander’s bluegrass ensemble, entered the school’s singer-songwriter competitions and, in general, soaked up as much as he could.?“It was a struggle,” he says. “I had to learn to read music. I had to learn to stop singing so far behind the beat. But at Berklee I found both the confidence and the vocabulary for my music.” Bradshaw has found other avenues of exploration at Boston, including a new appreciation for Irish music: For a performance in Harvard Square’s Club Passim, Bradshaw played songs that were associated, in one way or another, with his native Cork; he also has taken lessons from Shannon Heaton and Liz Simmons, whose style and repertoire tends to traditional singing. What’s more, after having sung in Spanish while gigging in Barcelona, and in Polish for “Budzin,” Bradshaw says he began thinking, “Well, why not sing in Irish, too?” I guess I’m famous for taking a detour,” he laughs. “There are things I want to do, but it seems like I have to go through something else to get there. But at least I’m still going.”

-Sean Smith, Boston Irish Reporter
- Boston Irish Reporter


Still working on that hot first release.



I had plenty to say when I was 25 and I strongly suspect none of it was worth saying. Bob Bradshaw laughs a little when he says this. Hes many years past that point now. Modesty and self-deprecation come naturally to the singer-songwriter-guitarist who adds, I might not have anything to say now either, but I am listening to the world around me. And I'm taking notes... in song-form.
Bradshaw born in Cork, Ireland and a Boston resident since 2003 - does have something to say, and, yes, in song form.

Consider his new 12-song disc, Home.

He is not going to hit you over the head. Aided ably by session guitar ace Duke Levine (Peter Wolf band, J. Geils Band, Aimee Mann, Giant Kings), among others, Bradshaw is operating in the gentler, probing realm of country-soul or roots-rock, Americana, whatever term you fancy. A quiet storm. He grew up loving Van Morrison (one of his first concert experiences) but as a songwriter, he likes to go to the kind of places some of his favorites Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, John Prine - have gone. He likes to observe, tell tales.

When he speaks, you can immediately tell hes from Ireland. When he sings, not so much. He doesnt sound like Christy Moore. The voice you hear it could be from the American southwest is his natural singing voice.

Musically, Bradshaw is going to take you a journey, not without some melancholy. His songs dont hurry along. They flow and float, take subtle twists and turns.

In High Water Risin, the meandering pace belies the massive flood coming to drown New York. Theres a non-confrontational, albeit bitter, look back at a breakup in You Got No Say Round Here and Talkin About My Love For You. A possible murder seems likely in Remember Me, a song sung from beyond the grave. But theres hope and the sense of starting over in Take Me To the East. Theres comfort in companionship in Wings of Desire, drinking as delusional pleasure in When I Was God. There is, one might say, the sting of authenticity you know, miles of tears, years and beers.

Im a storyteller, he says. Im in my songs, but in the songs in the same way Raymond Carver is in his stories. Im the characters in the songs. And Im using the song-form to explore matters of identity and communication. Im a strummer and I sing songs. I need an audience for my stories. The stories only work, only become stories, if people are there, listening.

The title song, Home, has a lot to with wandering, of the heart, the mind, the body.

As a kid Id up and wander, searchin back roads high and low, he sings in the lead-off title track. Stay til dark then take the long way home I have traveled much too far/Wanna go, wanna go home.

Its supposed to be a sort of slow-building Roy Orbison bolero thing, says Bradshaw, gradually building from the verse through the pre-chorus to the chorus an octave higher. Lyrically, its about someone whos at odds with his surroundings, who goes off alone in search of something intangible. Hes someone who doesnt make things easy for himself. Years pass, and his rambling has become habitual. He cant settle down. Theres a romanticized, unattainable home and past he years for. He makes his bed in cold dark alleys dreaming of green river valleys. Kind of a Midnight Cowboy scenario, I suppose.

Bradshaw has lived in the US for more than two decades. But he was once that rambler. In his late teens and early 20s, he was a journalist and short-story writer in Dublin. He acted a bit, taught himself guitar, busked and clowned the streets. But he was restless and he wasnt the journalist or short-story writer he wanted to be.

In 1985, he decided to pursue music/adventure thing, and got a summer gig playing in an Irish bar in Lagos, Portugal. He had a return ticket but found he didnt want to go back to Ireland. Then came Hamburg and Munich. Sometimes, he lived in a hostel, sometimes outside, mostly in a sleeping bag on the back stairs of the Munich Olympic Center or at the train station. He went back to Lagos and then more of what Bradshaw calls his migratory lifestyle playing in Spain, Sweden and Germany. Money gained? Minimal. Experience? Plenty.

He acquired a Green Card in 1989, and flew to New York, finding a room in the South Bronx. In Manhattan he worked as a doorman at the building Liza Minnelli and Howard Cosell lived in. (He also has been a housepainter, a roofer, a landscaper, a plumber, a furniture mover.) He moved to San Francisco, started playing in bars, and formed a folk-rock cover band Resident Aliens with songwriting partner and producer Scoop McGuire. They recorded two albums (a self-titled disc in 1995 and Alien Alert a live album with Ron Kavana in 1999). Bradshaw released his first solo album, Some Assembly Required, in 1997, and seven years later his second, Enjoy Your Confusion.

Band Members