By Brady Smith
Bob Dylan was the poster child for folk artists with mediocre vocal talents. As a matter of fact, it is not the vocal qualities of most folk artists that draw in their fans. In keeping with this tradition, Jim Bradford’s artistic talent can’t be judged by the vocals. Classical folk tale playfulness and the use of horns create a fresh addition to his sound.
The sax solo in “Near Miss” enforce Bradford’s message-sending lyrics, and the guitar solo in “Weena” showcases a distinctive talent. But, all artists walk that fine line between trying enough and trying too hard.
The strengths of the album lie in “Brave,” which feature Bradford’s rough vocal sprawl and offers us a more traditional folk sound. The easiness of his vocals allows the message of his lyrics to shine through.
When Bradford stops trying so hard, we hear a vocal raspiness that allows the powerful harmonies to filter through. The nuanced vocal distortions in sections of “One Punch Fight” serve up a kind of Johnny Cash country touch to the melody.
Overall, there is impressive potential in Bradford’s ability to produce influential folk rock. But there is a caveat. He either needs to ratchet down his near tone-deaf vocals to something more consonant with the folk sound, or he needs to realize that since his greatest gifts are as a songwriter and musician, and a more talented vocalist might better serve his music.