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Bob BradshawBob Bradshaw
Album: American Echoes
Label: Fluke
Tracks: 12

Born in Ireland but, currently living in Boston, Bradshaw's seventh album pays tribute to the music and experiences absorbed from 25 years in America with a dozen songs that variously take in the blues, country, folk and bluegrass. He has an easy on the ear, relaxed style, perfectly illustrated by opening track, 'Exotic Dancers Wanted', a bittersweet sketch of life inside a pole dancing bar, of the clients and the dancers, variously seeking thrills, escape and "pockets filled with dollar bills."

Taking the tempo up a notch, the catchily melodic 'Meet Me' , an ode to New York with a touch of Sleepless in Seattle about it, finds the narrator suggesting a series of possible lovers' trysts, from the coffee shop near Lexington and forty seventh to the Staten Island ferry or the viewing platform on the Empire State. Underpinned by piano, keys and lap steel, 'Call It What You Will', on the other hand, has a more downbeat note to its smoky, late night Manhattan bluesy vibe and lyrics about a relationship at the tipping point and words you can't take back. On the other hand, 'The Assumptions We Make' is the flip side of 'Meet Me', the optimism replaced by disappointment over a date that never shows.

'Workin' On My Protest Song' takes a musical leaf out of Paul Simon's Gracebook musical notebook, an Afro-Americana shuffle with a wry lyric about protest singers who reckon their songs will change world. There isn't actually a Keystone Bar & Grill (the name of a restaurant chain in Cincinatti as it happens) at the end of as Union Hill as mentioned in the Celtic-Americana tinged 'A Bird Never Flew On Just One Wing', but it sounds as there should be as, featuring Chad Manning on fiddle, it finds the narrator dropping by in the afternoon to kill time with a couple of drinks, just him, the bartender and some guy spouting such drunken wisdom as the song title.

Andrew Stern punching up the electric guitar, 'Weight of the World' shifts the mood for a Southern boogie rock n roll guitar riff track though you might also hear some Beatles touches there. By contrast, it's followed by the shuffling waltz of 'Stella' which, with Stern's resonator guitar break, is strikingly reminiscent of Elvis Costello's more romantic side.

He rings the changes again with the jazzy blues and wah wah guitar work of the witty Jekyll & Hyde lyric of a "cosmic double cross" 'My Double And I', the mood shifting to melancholy with the 'Material For The Blues' with its theme about preferring loneliness ("there are no marks, you see no bruise") to the abusive relationship the (male) narrator appears to be in.

Stern's slide adds muscle to the vocally powered-up 'O Brother', another song that deals with aspects of relationships, here the fear of commitment on the part of the singer when faced with a one night encounter who wants more.

It ends with a melancholic shade, Andy Santospago's banjo and Manning's fiddle providing the textures for the sepia-toned, old-time feel of 'Old Soldiers' ("never die, they fade away") with Mike Connors suitably underpinning with a military drum beat, a haunting finale to an album that, like its title, continues to echo long after the last note fades.

Mike Davies