There are loads of male singer-songwriters out there, most producing the thoughtful, introspective, well-played acoustic folk-americana that defines the collective. Because of the wealth and breadth of talent it is often hard to differentiate and/or single out someone who grabs the attention that bit more than the other.
Philp Bradatsch does, however, make a distinct mark in this genre and family, though it is genuinely hard to define the specifics. He doesn’t possess one of the current fashionable sonorous baritone voices, but he sings gently and honestly. His guitar and banjo playing is always confident. All of the songs on the album are well-written, and Bradatsch plays all of the instruments and there are occasional over-dubs and atmospheric effects added – simply though – like the echoing repeat of the chorus on the banjo-played and traditional sounding Down by the Gallows that ends with a breath of orchestrated sound and the crackle of imaginary vinyl – just enough to be interesting and definitely not intrusive. This is followed by a sweet acoustic folk track Land of Disease [an ironic title in this case then] and the guitar playing here is detailed in its runs, as on the excellent track When I’m Cruel [reminding of Peter Case, reviewed recently] the lyrics here linking the world’s and personal cruelty and trying to convince a lover that it is never directed at her.
Shippenbug begins with another sudden orchestrated sound, a rolling reverberation, and then settles into the banjo strums and fast pickings of this brooding instrumental. Mudhole is a slow acoustic guitar folk ballad that has the lineage of Neil Young in its creation and in this respect exemplifies the ‘tradition’ of Bradatsch’s sound as some means of getting through that difficulty in defining.
A favourite of mine so far is Feels Like Rain which reminds very much of Josh T Person in its construction and singing, but that is just one more fragile touchstone – something to suggest a similar but far less intense similarity. What is singularly distinct about this album is the sustained quality. It is an outstanding example of the singer-songwriter’s art.