Harpist/vocalist Scott Bradbury (who has also employed the moniker "Badboy Scotty") learned to play blues harmonica on the streets of Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, but his musical education took a great leap forward when, on the advice of a fellow street busker, he began to listen to records by blues legends Little Walter and Jimmy Reed. Later, he studied the techniques of other Chicago harp masters like Big Walter Horton, Carey Bell, James Cotton, and especially Junior Wells, who remains a major influence to this day. Bradbury further sharpened his skills by working as a sideman and leading bands that played clubs on both the North and Southsides as well as working with bluesmen John Brim, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, and Sam Lay. Eventually he played around the globe as a member of the Jimmy Rogers Band.
All that experience comes in handy on Bradbury's new solo album, the appropriately christened Callin' All Blues on the Wheeling-based Teardrop label. Bradbury digs deep into the Chicago blues tradition on 10 original compositions as well as one cover, Johnny Otis' flowing "Country Girl." Badboy Scotty has assembled a seasoned and sympathetic band for the project, including Tre' Hardiman on guitar, fellow Rogers Band alumnus Frank Bandy on bass, and veteran drummer Marty Binder, who has toured and recorded with Albert Collins, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.
Bradbury's songs are strong, ranging from the funky bass-driven workout "Third Eye" with its scratching soul guitar, through the driving shuffle "Looking For My Baby" and its well-placed stops, to the James Cotton-inspired instrumental tour-de-force "Light Fuse Get Away" -- a rapid, no-holds-barred boogie. Slow and midtempo blues that feature Bradbury's nimble harpwork is also present, and Bradbury includes local references in his songwriting, most notably on the superior "Clybourn Avenue." Scott Bradbury's impressive abilities have been apparent to fellow musicians for years; with this outstanding effort he might just receive well-deserved wider acclaim.
Appearing: Friday, February 4 at Bill's Blues Bar (1029 Davis) in Evanston and Wednesdays at Bossman's Blues Center (3500 W. Lake) in Chicago.
NEW RELEASES: In addition to Dave Specter and Steve Freund's outstanding Is What It Is (reviewed in last month's "Sweet Home"), premier Chicago label Delmark has also issued two other notable albums. J.B. Hutto's Stompin' At Mother Blues combines songs recorded after hours at the fabled Old Town blues club Mother Blues in 1966, with tracks from a 1972 studio session. Fans of screaming slide guitar won't want to miss this stellar release. Also out is pianist/vocalist Detroit Jr.'s debut as a leader, Blues On The Internet. The disc features a wealth of original material as well as contributions from esteemed musicians like guitarists Jimmy Dawkins, Maurice John Vaughn, Willie Davis, and Lurrie Bell, first call bassist Bob Stroger, drummer Kenny Smith, and hornmen Eric Scheider and Sonny Cohn. It's also an enhanced CD with footage of the long-time piano man playing solo.
REISSUES: Fiery young blues guitarist and Compton, CA native Kirk Fletcher's incendiary album Shades Of Blue has finally been released domestically, and it's definitely a treat for fans of the talented fretmaster (who has played with the likes of harmonica masters Charlie Musselwhite and Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds fame) and an eye-opener for listeners new to Fletcher's signature style. Previously available only as an import, Shades Of Blue (Delta Groove) finds the energetic guitarist delving into all manner of blues with undeniable authority. Guest vocalists include Wilson, Finis Tasby of The Mannish Boys, and rising blues diva Janiva Magness, and this version of the album also contains three previously unreleased bonus tracks . . . Delmark has released a second volume in its This Is The Blues Harmonica series featuring tracks from albums by the label's harp maestros, including just recently issued tracks from Junior Wells and Shakey Jake with Magic Sam . . . The Essential Allman Brothers Band -- The Epic Years (Epic/Legacy) features selections culled from the group's best work from the '90s and beyond.
Pauline York possesses a powerful and expressive voice and her guitar playing is pleasingly down and dirty. Her backing band is tough, tight, and in-the-pocket, helping York set a strong groove on the varied program of blues, New Orleans R&B, Memphis Soul, and well-written ballads that comprise Muddy Water, her new CD that also features guest Nick Moss on guitar and harp. The disc combines covers from the likes of the late Son Seals, Otis Rush, Otis Redding, and Sleepy John Estes (her take on his "Leavin' Trunk" is especially impressive) with originals that draw from many styles (the Buddy Holly-inspired "Someone Like You" rocks with authority). Keep an ear out for this up-and-coming roots musician; she has definitely got some noteworthy chops.