Bradleyboy Mac Arthur
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Bradleyboy Mac Arthur

Orono, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Orono, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Solo Americana Blues




"Bradleyboy Mac Arthur - Salt Gun"

By Kerry Doole
Along with kindred spirits CATL, MacArthur is helping give the rather staid Toronto, ON blues scene a much-needed adrenalin boost. This is blues stripped-down and naked, dirty, primal, raw, and clearly indebted to punk rock. He's a one-man band, in the tradition of Scott H. Biram (an acknowledged inspiration), and Salt Gun was recorded live-off-the-floor at his home studio, the Red Room. No slick guitar solos and studio tricks here, MacArthur has clearly listened to R.L. Burnside and the Fat Possum posse. He may hail from rural Ontario, not the Delta, but MacArthur's gruff vocals and ferocious guitar playing are suitably authentic. A graduate of bands like the Drunken Ex-Boyfriends, Kent Boys and the Town Hall Criers, he's been doing this for a quarter-century, so he's not some young hipster who has just discovered Robert Johnson. There's a ZZ Top boogie feel to "Chickenblood," an album highlight, while the riffing on "Callin' Your Name" evokes the Velvet Underground. Just when the generally relentless sonic assault starts to wear thin, MacArthur slows things down and delivers his best vocal performance on closing track "What Is True." This Gun finds its mark.
- Kerry Doole @ Exclaim

"Bradleyboy : Best boy of the blues"

Bradley MacArthur’s life has taken some interesting twists and turns over the years, he’ll be the first to admit, but one of the most peculiar has to be the Orono-based one-man blues band’s recent signing to Toronto’s Awesome Records.

That someone has finally signed Bradleyboy — as he’s known onstage — isn’t the strange part. From 2005 on, the prolific backwoods belter put out six records on his own, the last couple of them quite fantastic, whilst at the same time crafting a scarily charismatic psychotic-hillbilly stage persona and perfecting one of the most riveting, rough-’n’-ready live shows to slap the contemporary Toronto blues scene upside the head in a long while. And the Toronto blues scene appears to be taking notice: MacArthur is one of the finalists in the Toronto Blues Society talent search, which wraps up Thursday with a lunchtime battle of the bands in Nathan Philips Square.

No, the odd thing about MacArthur’s new venture with the EMI-affiliated Awesome Records imprint, which saw the nationwide release of his latest album, Salt Gun, this past June, is that the label typically handles club-friendly electronic dance music. House, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and the like. So while one could indeed argue that the blues is the original dance music, it generally hasn’t been the sort of dance music with which Awesome has been associated.

“This was totally unsolicited,” says MacArthur over a patio pint near his favourite Toronto haunt, the Dakota Tavern. “I was doing my regular once-a-month set at the Dakota and, this one night, I saw this table of people who looked kind of out of place in the Dakota crowd. And then after my first set, a lady approached me . . .

“I went and checked out the label and it was exactly like you said, man. Dance music, house music. Where’s the 50-year-old one-man roots band fit into this mix? And when I met with them, that was one of the first things I said to them, just to be candid. And Awesome said to me: ‘The reason why is you’re real. We like what you do.’ ”

The Awesome in question is Assim Awan, who runs the label that bears his nickname.

Diversifying the Awesome roster has been one of Awan’s preoccupations of late, he says, and he’s been specifically targeting acts with deadly live shows. Needless to say, the Bradleyboy MacArthur experience — one gruff, red-faced dude bellowing distorted darkness over fuzzed-out guitar and banjo, screeching harp and a homemade suitcase kick drum — fit the bill.

“I watched the performance and said: ‘This is fantastic,’” says Awan. “He’s very entertaining, and not too many people can do it and pull it off and deliver it in the fashion that he does it. So once I saw it I became convinced he was an artist we should be involved with.”

MacArthur came to his singular performance style by a circuitous route. He’s worked a number of trades throughout his life, from sawmill hand to steel walker — he spent 25 years balancing on beams at precarious heights building tall buildings from Kapuskasing to the Bahamas — before “jumping off the train” and immersing himself in music full-time, once the seven kids from his combined marriages were grown and off fending for themselves.

“I was the guy that was climbing up on the steel,” says MacArthur, one of a long line of steel walkers in his family. “I was usually the only white man in an all-native gang.

“I loved the solitude of it. I loved being away from everybody. I loved being 120 feet in the air, standing on a climb waiting for a piece to come.”

He played in a number of reasonably successful roots bands — the Drunken Ex-Boyfriends, the Town Hall Criers and the Kent Boys — before deciding seven years ago that going it alone worked best for his solitary nature. His songs, he felt, were “just getting lost in musical etiquette,” muddied by all the musical parts jockeying for a place in the mix.

Left to his own devices, then, he came up with a swampy, surly breed of Gothic-blues minimalism that shares a DIY spirit, a raw, urgent immediacy and a fondness for dirty, dirty noise with punk rock. Small wonder, then, that MacArthur is good pals with the folks in equally punk-ish and self-sufficient local blues outfit catl, with whom he’s often tag-teamed sets at the Dakota. Along with the likes of the Black Keys and Vancouver’s Pack A.D., they’re all following the lead of the late, great White Stripes in shaking the blues out of a couple of generations’ worth of traditionalist doldrums. So, yeah, it’s a good thing that Bradleyboy is in the running to succeed catl as the victor in the Toronto Blues Society’s talent search this year.

In any case, working alone also jibes nicely with his insanely prolific output. The man writes constantly, adhering to the Michael Stipe ethos of “just speak.” He records just as much live off the floor in his Orono home studio, dubbed the Red Room. You get the sense he’d be doing what he does even if no one was paying attention.

“I dream songs,” he says. “I get up in the middle of the night, go downstairs to my studio and murmur into something at three o’clock in the morning and then wake up in the morning and go ‘Wow.’ You’ve gotta capture it then and there because if you let it swim around in your brain long enough it’ll just become bastardized after awhile. The original thought leaves, the original melody, the original feeling of it.

“I didn’t want to be playing the same songs for the next 10 years. I write constantly. Music, like any art form, evolves constantly. When I got into doing the one-man band thing, if I wrote a song today I could play it tonight.”

With Awesome Records on board, MacArthur is now looking forward to getting out of the southern-Ontario area. The label has its sights on the States and Europe, which thrills him — as does the idea of letting someone else do the bookings and the drudgework, for once.

“It’s been awesome with them,” he says, appropriately. “They’re really cool people. When I first met with them, I thought I was going to be, for lack of a better word, going into the lion’s den.

“But you know what? I think they’re starting to realize that there are a lot of cool things going on in the underground and that people are looking for a bit of ‘real,’ man.”

- Ben Rayner

"Salt Gun: Bradleyboy Mac Arthur"

The acid test for a good song is to strip away all the technology; the auto-tune, the programmed beats, the synth pads, the effects and processing … if what’s left sounds anything at all like a song, you might indeed have something. Bradley Boy Mac Arthur has a boxcar full of them and, more impressively, you wouldn’t dare mess up his art with bells and whistles. The one man band is like a dog on chain with enough growl and sinew to gnaw through to the bare bones of what’s real. Portability and spontaneity are his calling cards. Bradley Boy works with a suitcase drum kit, straight-up electric guitar plugged into a small amp. That’s it. In a recent interview he told me that he has worked in 2 piece, 3 piece, four piece and so on situations but fitting in other’s musical tastes, egos and schedules aren’t really up to his speed. You see, Bradley is writing music constantly and is ready to go with something new when the inspiration strikes him; even on stage. Growing up in Durham County, Ontario, he admits to have led an idyllic Huck Finn sort of life as a kid. One of his regular adventures to the bluffs outside of town, where he and his school chums would hang out, lead to the title of the album. They had to cross through the property of a crusty old farmer who, if he spied them, would load up the gun with salt and take pot shots at them. They got stung more than once and the he always thought the name Salt Gun would be great for an album title. Though his wild dawg hollerin’ sounds authentically like gut-bucket blues should sound from the porch of a bayou shanty, the self-confessed hillbilly attests it’s simply the voice that comes out when he sings. On tracks like Locomotive Dream and Chicken blood (a hilarious true story about his lazy hound dog), his delivery sends chills and that’s a true mark of the real deal.

- Kal Koat Worldbeat Canada

"Bradleyboy Mac Arthur Salt Gun"

We’ve all seen solo musicians on stage, fumbling with loop pedals, harmonica and foot percussion, attempting to falsify importance or grandeur. Ultimately, those few simple looped notes and the ornate suitcase standing front and center hiding a rarely used foot pedal do little other than confirm the songs need support. More often than not, the transparent look behind the curtain spoils the reveal.

For Orono Ontario’s Bradleyboy Mac Arthur, those same elements are worn like a suit of armor; a necessary precaution for survival in the world of a swampy, one-man blues band. The suitcase abused from a relentless kick pedal and the harmonica hung from his neck like a convicted outlaw are as important to his sound as his growl, chugging electric riffs or gritty, down and out subject matter.

Bradleyboy Mac Arthur has been traveling on this solo journey for many years, but with the release of his new record,Salt Gun, it feels like he finally found the right path. Making the switch to a new label, one that might seem like an odd choice for the grizzled blues man to call home but one that has EMI distribtution, means that he might finally get his music heard by a bigger audience. It also coincides with his strongest record to date.

Thanks to a never ending collection of bluesy licks and gruff vocals, Salt Gun could easily find a home on the shelf of any RL or Seasick Steve fan, but the record also finds Bradleyboy pushing his limits. The warbled horn work on “Callin’ Your Name” is an unexpected diamond in the rough and the new texture helps diversify the listen. The hint of traditional rock ‘n roll on “I Might Be” does the same.

Most importantly, Salt Gun offers more than the trademark modern Delta sound. “Bird Watcher” feels cinematic in scope, each tense note and sweeping whistle leading to an inevitable duel at high noon between good and evil. The most shocking song on the LP is the closer, “What is True.” Bradleyboy maintains a kick drum beat, but the picked, emotional number shows he isn’t limited to whiskey-worn growls and sweat soaked riffs. The intimacy the song creates is a new weapon for Bradleyboy, but a powerful one. The end of the song is so beautiful and warm the only feeling you take away from the six-minute experience is comfort. It’s not the ending you’d expect considering the lead up, but that climatic surprise is what makes a performer memorable.

- Hero Hill

"Salt Gun Wins From Start To Finish"

Walking down the stairs to the Dakota Tavern, cell phone reception drops as you enter a world that’s reminiscent of days of yore. This cozy bar, with its warm wood finish and friendly people is the perfect intimate setting for the CD release “Salt Gun” by the one and only Bradley Boy Mac Arthur.

Bradley Boy is a one man Rock-a-Billy band and a staple at the Dakota. Sitting all alone on stage he rotates through guitar, banjo and a guitar made from a real wooden Cuban cigar box of which the pick-up is in a Cuban cigar tube. He simultaneously thumps a kick made of an old suitcase and pumps the high-hat with a tambourine topper. Vocal breaks are often filled with harmonica, leaving a mystery as to how he has any breath left in his lungs by the end of a set. The magic that Bradley Boy creates on stage is mesmerizing, you can’t help but tap your toes, bob your head and surprise yourself when you realize you’ve just shouted out a hoot or holler.

The recent Bradley Boy CD release party felt like good friends and family gathering to celebrate our brother’s accomplishments. In between sets the boys from Peterborough, Tarantüla, kept us entertained, but this show was all about Bradley. He played old favourites and new, soon to be favourites off of “Salt Gun”. He was even joined on stage by trombone player Bruce Mackinnon, who graced the track Callin’ Your Name on the album.

Salt Gun is 2,712 seconds of rock-a-billy meets the Ponderosa and was recorded live on the floor in the Red Room. According to Bradley Boy, “The Red Room is my recording room in my house in Orono for the past 10 years. The house was built in 1850. Painted pine floors and high ceilings. Great live room.” All 11 tracks on the album are wonderful and perfectly Bradley Boy, the following are some highlights to give you a taste of what you’re in for:

Backdoor Man starts off the album and sets the tone with lyrical imagery of a mildly tortured soul with hints of spiritual undertones imposed on a backdrop of the old west. We then journey into the mind of minimalism at its best with Old 59. A man who sheds the materials of life to ride the rails until he dies and hauntingly wishes for “[a] boxcar for my grave, throw me into the fire of the engine; let my soul go up in its smoke.” The theme of riding the rails continues later on in the album with Locomotive Dream, a gritty down and dirty tune that you can check the live performance of here: . Callin’ Your Name features the trombone styling’s of Bruce Mackinnon and continues the theme of a tortured soul whose attention is caught by an irresistible woman who is ultimately unavailable. The addition of the trombone adds a lively change in melody which you will no doubt be humming for days. The track Bird Watcher is easily a favourite. Bradley’s voice is deeply baritone and the quality is reminiscent of Johnny Cash. The melodic sway of the guitar, minimal kick and the whistling interludes are mesmerizing; the first thought that came to mind when hearing this track is that it belongs on the next Tarantino movie soundtrack. Bradley Boy is a master of painting imagery with his lyrics, and Fools Gold is an excellent example of this. A Wild West feel with lyrics that make you think, “Sell my soul to the mountain, give my heart to the sun…” and lyrics that make you smile, “Alms for the naked”. The second to last track of the album is another favourite. It’s called Chickenblood and it documents the story of an old dog with a mind of his own that, “…think he’s human.” Anyone who’s ever owned a stubborn dog will definitely relate to this bluesy track and it’ll have you smiling for 4 minutes and 48 seconds.

- Mizrebelrecords Colleen Bedford

"Bradleyboy Mac Arthur Salt Gun Review"

That old "What's in a name?" claim comes up short in the case of Bradleyboy Mac Arthur.

Until now, the Orono, Ont. one-man band had been going by just Bradleyboy. His latest record under that moniker, 2009's Rock/Wood, housed its fair share of back porch-stomper tirades, but it was mostly tame, greasy, hillbilly blues — the sort of stuff you'd expect from Fred Penner if he'd actually been living alone in the woods since 1985.

Whatever Bradleyboy meant to signal by expanding his name, it's surely no coincidence that the change came at the same time as a record that marks a significant amplification of style.

Salt Gun's songs are still gritty and forlorn, but Bradleyboy himself now seems possessed by some unspeakable form of evil. When he isn't yelling, he's growling. When he's not singing about animal blood, he's cursing an ever-absent woman. Half the time, he sounds like a man who stumbled into a field of nettles and can't find the way out.

Salt Gun is a more accurate depiction of Bradleyboy, the live performer: intense, unpredictable and not hurting from a lack of band members. Brace yourself for mid-album masterpiece "Bird Watcher" and the best lonesome cowboy whistle outside a Clint Eastwood flick.

- Chart Attack Scott Bryson

"Bradleyboy Mac Arthur Salt Gun"

From the back woods of Orono, Ontario comes the newest release from one-man band Bradleyboy Mac Arthur. With roots running deep straight to the Mississippi Delta, Salt Gun is one of the best blues releases that I have come across so far this year. Recorded live off the floor, there is a rawness running through the album that would be nearly impossible to replicate had the record been made in any other manner. And though you might be inclined to think that the lack of a full band somehow hinders Mac Arthur, you had best think again. By the time you hit track four, the powerful Locomotive Dream, you are so immersed in the record and Mac Arthur’s unique style that the one-man band thing becomes a non-point at that moment.
- The Music Nerd Chronicles Ken Kelly

"Shows that Rocked Toronto"

Using a suitcase for a bass drum and working a hi-hat pedal with his other foot, Bradleyboy employs guitar, banjo and harmonica to create a thumping, throbbing pulse that’s complemented by his gravelly growl. His sparse arrangements leave no room for the mindless noodling that mars so much contemporary blues music. How many solo acoustic acts can get a packed bar shimmying on the dance floor?
- Benjamin Boles Now Magazine

"Bradleyboy - Rock/Wood"

Orono’s resident bluegrass badass, Bradleyboy. The swampy blues and Cash like influence was evident, but now that I’ve spent some quality time with his latest release, Rock/Wood, I’m even more impressed. He’s more than a growlin’ beast with a flair for catchy, picked riffs. No, this Orono man is a born story teller, one that offers up a modern take on one of the most tried and true styles of music. - Hero hill N.S

"Reason to live"

Bradleyboy, Rock/Wood. Stompin' roots `n' roll iconoclast Bradley "Bradleyboy" MacArthur has lately become one of my favourite live acts, thanks to his semi-regular gigs with the fine folks in catl at the Dakota Tavern. A gruff, frantically strummin'-and-pickin' powerhouse onstage, the burly one-man band from Orono is considerably more nuanced and imposingly impressive in an entirely different way on record. The terrific new Rock/Wood covers all the bases between creaky country ballads and blazing dirt-floor blues, oozing grease and no small amount of hillbilly-Gothic menace from every pore the whole time. "Carpenter's Daughter" and "Diving Bell" are truly haunting, establishing MacArthur as as fine a storyteller as he is a songwriter and minimalist musician - Ben Rayner of The Toronto Star


SALT GUN Released June 2011
Awesome Music / EMI
Rock/Wood Dec 2009 Get Bent/Transistor 66
The Farm (Nov. 2008 Get Bent/transistor 66)
Woven (Nov. 2007, Transistor 66),
Home (Nov.2006, Transistor 66),
Onitoba (Aug. 2006, Transistor 66),
Bottle Collection (Nov. 2005, Transistor 66)



Singer/songwriter since I was a kid. Played in 2,3,4,5,6 piece bands. Playing roots music,country,blues & bluegrass originals with a punk edge inspired by Johnny Cash,Hank Williams,Tom Waits & R.L Burnside. I like gettin' to the root, then mixin' it up. I'm a one man band so there is no lack of energy live and I like to rip it up. Straight from the hip.

Band Members