It is rare to encounter a musician that literally causes people to stop in their tracks. Such was the case one sultry evening during SxSW when Charles Bradley stunned fans and passersby at an outdoor venue in Austin. It is perhaps even more uncommon to come across an artist who releases a dazzling debut album at 62, after years of working as a chef in locales as far and wide as Maine and Alaska. Again, such is the case with Charles Bradley.
Released in January, Bradleys No Time For Dreaming is the latest full-length release from Dunham Records, an imprint of Daptone Records. Daptone, the outfit that is responsible for Brooklyns soul-revival movement, has a demonstrated knack for finding artists in unlikely places and Bradley is no exception. He was apparently stumbled upon performing a James Brown routine under the pseudonym, Black Velvet. The timeless sense of delivery that Bradley honed during those performances paired with the palpable emotion and conviction of a man who has endured significant heartache provide for stunning vocals throughout the record. These vocals subsequently combine with poignant song writing and superb backing instrumentals from the Menahan Street Band to create a near perfect album.
The LP also finds success in featuring different genres within the soul canon. “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” is politically conscious, whereas “The Telephone Song” depicts a mans effort to convince his lover to come back home. “Heartaches and Pain” describes the personal tragedy that Bradley has suffered, and “Lovin You, Baby” is the type of song that sociologists could use to explain a spike in the birth rate nine months from now.
All the elements that make No Time For Dreaming one of the years best will undoubtedly be on display Friday as Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band perform a split bill with Lee Fields and the Expressions at Brooklyns Music Hall of Williamsburg. Any music enthusiast would be remiss to let pass an opportunity to see this astonishing performer in his hometown.