My Artist of the Year - Charles Bradley

- Roving Correspondent -

It happened in Austin,Texas during the annual parade of shameless self-promotion known as South By Southwest. Once an annual stop, I abandoned the spring ritual some years back as it had degenerated into something I found....tawdry.

A close friend and long time associate, of fastidious musical taste, asked me to go to a show with him. In a bicycle store. At noon. As I am morally opposed to daylight and anything associated with physical exercise I could not think of a worse atmosphere to be exposed to some band I was sure to loathe for any number of reasons.He persisted and I went along.So there I was, in the bicycle store, in Texas, waiting to see a band, at noon. I felt just as I had expected to feel: prepared to be underwhelmed. The band staggered out onto the floor of the bicycle store and with a nod of a head they began. About a minute I was in shock.They could play. After a couple of minutes a man strolled up in front of them.The shock intensified. He could sing.

This may sound ridiculous. It happened often enough in past years. You knew you would encounter greatness, or something on its way there, if you persevered.A few years ago after endless exposure to the mediocre, the self-serving,the clueless I found myself in uncharted waters. I had lost my faith.

I listened to three songs before I turned to my friend and said;

"I have to see this again. I have to see this in a club, at night, with lights, with people drinking and dancing."

Six weeks later I had the chance. On a Saturday night they played a reasonable sized club in San Francisco. It was sold out with about fifty people waiting outside. The word was getting out.The band, the singer, the whole experience was ten times what had impressed me at noon in a bicycle store.Greatness was in the room.

You can not play like this simply as a declared profession. It takes devotion. Devotion to the song, devotion to the vocalist. Devotion dictating restraint,feel and passion. You can not aspire to sing like this. It is a destination. Each step of the journey expressed in phrasing. Every slight and pain groaned and howled in the verse.

This music had the key ingredient where matters of faith are concerned: soul. Not some nostalgia driven pork pie hat Belushi clown show cliche or some Terence Trent D'Arby hype. It had Essence.

This is the real deal. Where the rubber meets the road. If you are one whose faith has lapsed, or sadly have never had music to believe in, I bring you news of remedy. Seek out Charles Bradley and see him perform. The Truth shall set you free.

I am not concerned that there are two months left in 2011. I am secure in the knowledge that this is the artist of the year. That security is based on something I did not possess in January that I have now in November - Faith.

Charles Bradley has two upcoming UK dates:

  • November 13 - Manchester Venue: Band on the Wall
  • November 14- - London Venue: XOYO