Bob Bradshaw – Whatever You Wanted

There is much emphasis placed on young, fresh talent in the music
industry. The arresting pull of youth, the lust for the new associated
with the lust for the different – and the colliding beauty industry that
makes this world ever-driven by artists who are barely out of high
school. Yet, there is much merit to be found in the older, the wiser and
the more experienced, and Americana songwriter Bob Bradshaw is a firm
believer in that. “I had plenty to say when I was 25 and I strongly
suspect none of it was worth saying,” he says with a laugh. “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.”
Indeed,
‘Whatever You Wanted’ fashions itself as a collection of stories and
observations drawn from the world around him. Bob is now in his 50s, but
he writes and plays with the fervor and restless energy of someone half
his age, and he came face to face with such competition when he
attended Berklee College of Music, graduating in 2009. Irish-born but
having travelled Europe busking and exploring in the 1980s before
landing in New York on a Green Card in 1989, he has spent many years
playing, writing, recording and just generally moving about,
experiencing the world. ‘Whatever You Wanted’ is Bob’s sixth album, but
in many ways he is still the underdog, still learning from others and
still winning over new fans. And amongst that fervor and driving force
is the wise voice of an elder statesman, communicating what he has taken
from the world to a new generation.
There’s a
strand of love and heartbreak running through this record, complex
relations swirling before us in a way that makes it unclear whether the
subject remains the same. The title track uses driving percussion to set
the tone for a kiss-off song, aimed at a lover who comes crawling back
after making a mess of things, while ‘Crazy Heart’ is a wash of country
noir that laments his heart’s tendency to break the rules. But there are
also more conventional expressions of grief and loss, as on the punchy
roots rock of ‘A Fool Who Cries’ and the southern rock strut of ‘Losing
You’, both examples of where Bob gets more upbeat and textured in his
offerings.
There are also more pensive tracks
on the album, however. ‘Dream’, for example, is a lovely lullaby
seemingly inspired by the Audrey Hepburn classic ‘Moon River’, while ‘Go
Get Along’ takes us back to the 40s and 50s for a gently rolling track
about moving on. Country folk ditty ‘High’ meanwhile features a somewhat
cosmic lyric about falling deeply in love, and ‘Before’ takes us back
to the 1970s for a chilled out reflection on what are perhaps his own
reservations about taking on new challenges. There’s a definite sense of
moving forward and tackling life here too, with intriguingly
experimental folk offering ‘Sparrow’ a curious tale of warning about the
things that may await him – in other words, get your s— together,
you’re going to need it. One of my favourite tracks, opener ‘The Start
of Nothin’’, muses on life and memories in a melancholic but beautifully
simple fashion; some of Bob’s best work is that which is not
overthought.
The record comes to a close on a
sombre thought. The soulful anthem ‘Sad Songs’ reflects as much on a
heartbreak as it does on his own lifestyle singing sad songs to crowds
every night, while closing track ‘The Long Ride Home’ is a refreshingly
stripped-back ballad about a tour coming to a close and the long road
home. “The boys’ll break your heart in two,” he sings, following his
scene-setting observations.
A lot of young
artists have mature heads on their shoulders and do indeed have
something fresh and interesting to say. But there’s nothing quite like
listening to the tales of a life well lived, sung from someone who has
experienced more than many of us ever have, or ever will. Someone who
has studied his craft and honed his talent in front of thousands. That’s
what you’re getting with Bob Bradshaw – wisdom, and great songs.
 

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