MP3 — Dale Ann Bradley releases Don’t Turn Your Back
It’s 9 a.m. on a rainy January day in Nashville, five days into 2009. Dale Ann Bradley is coming up the studio steps without a raincoat, carrying a guitar and a folder full of lyrics. She’s been on the road for 14 straight days, it’s 25 degrees and pouring, but never mind all that. She’s been shaping the concept of her new project, the follow-up to her Compass Records debut Catch Tomorrow, for months, and she can’t wait to kick off the first song. She’s let her heart guide her way through stacks of songs, looking for those that capture something beyond great music, something that gives voice to what she’s been living and breathing in her own life for the last year.
So take a seat around the coffee table at the Compass Sound Studio–where Dale Ann Bradley sits with an old D-28 and producer and banjoist Alison Brown puts her gentle mark of genius on arrangements–and let Dale Ann tell you about Don’t Turn Your Back in her own words: “It needs to be more than a record,” she’s says. “This is my dream album. I want it to inspire people to hang in with whatever they’re facing–to find the hope and inspiration to keep going. I want to share the music that’s touched me and I want to put everything into it that has been given to me over the past year.”
This is Dale Ann Bradley. She’s the 2007 & 2008 IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year and has been hailed by Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs as one of the greatest vocalists in country and bluegrass music. A former Coon Creek Girl and mainstay at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance, Bradley commands a list of awards as long as Highway 40, yet a few minutes with her tells you she is something even more than extraordinarily gifted–she’s extraordinarily human. A Primitive Baptist preacher’s daughter out of the hills of Kentucky where no musical instruments were allowed, Bradley grew up in a self-described “backwoods holler” down a rural road where electricity and running water weren’t available until she was in high school–something she has more in common with the first generation of bluegrass than her contemporaries in today’s scene.
Dale Ann Bradley is nothing if not a great storyteller, but her ability to step into someone else’s shoes and make their story her own for a few minutes, that is what allows every note sung and played on Don’t Turn Your Back to be believable. In the company of some of best bluegrass pickers and singers including Stuart Duncan (fiddle/banjo), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Alison Brown (banjo), Gena Britt (banjo), Steve Gulley (vocals), and Mike Bub (bass), Bradley explores Don’t Turn Your Back’s undeniable themes of bravery and hope through the eyes of mothers, lovers, trains, and one shiny, soon-to-be-lucky penny.
Staying true to her daughter-of-a-preacher roots, Don’t Turn Your Back includes three bluegrass gospel numbers: the humorous “Rusty Old Halo”, The Carter Family’s “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room”, and the traditional “Heaven”, which features reigning IBMA Entertainers of the Year Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent. Sharing her love of classic rock and its influence on her music and voice, Bradley includes bluegrass versions of Fleetwood Mac’s “Over My Head”and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”, yet stays close to tradition with the Kentucky mountain ballad “Blue Eyed Boy”. Courage is the silver thread running through all twelve tracks of Don’t Turn Your Back, and it is in these songs that Bradley lays out all she’s got: “Anybody Else’s Heart But Mine” teaches us how to push through a broken heart, “Will I Be Good Enough” (Branscomb, Claire Lynch on guest vocals) whispers hope to uncertain parents, and “Music City Queen” (Bradley/Branscomb) documents the dauntlessness of those who come to Nashville seeking stardom. The title track calls for giving life’s highway one more chance.
Dale Ann Bradley’s mountain soprano has been called “shimmering” (The Washington Post)