Charles Bradley, Soul Survivor [Bumbershoot Preview]
Where does soul come from? Soul is hardship, the grind and struggle of the working man. Soul is persevering with love no matter what. Soul is trying keeping your lady happy however you can, no matter how much you suck at it. Daptone Recording artist Charles Bradley feels an artist caught in time, someone who’s oozing soul in an era that seems careless of actual emotion or real human problems. He’s reminding us that class-struggle isn’t a thing of the past, and by asking “why is it so hard to live in America today,” he’s capturing the mood of a time where nothing is certain for even the waning “middle class.” In the opening track to his debut record, Bradley sings “The World is going up in flames, and nobody wants to take the blame.” It’s a distinctly American anthem for 2011.
Though Bradley is standing face to face with the zeitgeist of our here and now, he’s not letting it get him down. I’d say this is the key point of attraction. In a time defined by a hyper-speed and hyper-drama news cycle, it can be hard to put things in perspective or see past the now. Our generation has no concept of sacrifice or the long term, no experience with what he puts “a life full of sorrow, heartaches and pain, again and again.” But once you’ve reached Bradley’s age, you’ve been through recession after recession and shitty president after shitty president and seen it all. Bradley’s own expression of this frustration is revealed with words and drawn out wails, but is contrasted by the big-band horn backing of the Menahan Street Band and a voice that’s weathered by years but unjaded by those years. In place of righteousness or negativity is the simple recognition that there’s “no time for dreaming. Gotta get on up, and do my thing!” Coming from an artist who struggled in obscurity for decades until finally finding his opportunity for an international career in his sixties via Daptone, there’s an indelible affirmation of truth in his words. A story of perseverance is being retold each time he reaches for a high note and draws it out and dons his James Brown inspired jumpsuit. It’s a story we can all learn from right now.
Charles Bradley comes to Seattle for the first time at Bumbershoot‘s Fisher Green Stage on Monday September 5th at 5:45pm. Making his Northwest debut Bradley will also be in Bellingham at the Wild Buffalo on Sunday September 4th and in Portland at the Aladdin Theater for Musicfest Northwest September 8th.