Dale Ann Bradley has been busy lately. In addition to touring on her own,The five time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award winner, has been touring and recording with supergroup Sister Sadie. I had heard last year that she was working on a new project. I do not know how she found the time to work on a new album with her busy schedule, but I am glad she did. Her new album, The Hard Way, has arrived. It features recordings of new songs, from murder ballads to love songs, and covers of songs not normally found in bluegrass repertoires, from the catalog of Journey, Jim Croce, and The Grateful Dead.
The Hard Way consists of ten songs. Some of the highlights on the album includes, “The Hard Way Every Time”, a Jim Croce song that is the inspiration for the album’s title. When an artist covers a song from a performer with such a recognizable style, like Jim Croce, it can be difficult to make the song your own, while staying true to the original recording. Dale Ann Bradley does a great job with this song. In this day and time, writing a murder ballad that does not sound like every other one out there can be difficult. Bradley and her brother wrote “Pretty, Dark Hearted Emma Brown”, and it is as good as any in that style that you will ever hear. Bradley’s cover of Journey’s “Wheel in The Sky” sounds as if it was always meant to a bluegrass song. If you twisted my arm and made me choose a favorite on this album, I would pick “One Good Wiper Blade”. The vocals and musical arrangement creates a mood from the beginning of the track, and you are immersed in the story immediately. “The Likes of You” is an up-tempo, love song that will set your toes to tapping. Bradley covers Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” with the vocal grace we have become accustomed to. “Because He Loved Me”, a song written by Georgia native Morris Stancil, is bound to draw an “amen” or two. The album concludes with “Ripple”, a Grateful Dead tune, that Bradley makes sound as if it were written just for her.
I have never been disappointed with any Dale Ann Bradley recording. The Hard Way is no exception. With a mixture of new songs, covers, and gospel songs, Bradley shines on The Hard Way. Whether with her own backing band, or with Sister Sadie, do yourself a favor, and attend one of her shows. Also, pick up her latest album, The Hard Way, today.