New CDs to review usually come in the mail, but recently a stop at the Maple Corner Store in Calais was fortuitous. Waiting for change, I noticed a CD I hadn’t seen before on the counter and asked the young man at the cash register about it.
“It’s mine, would you like a copy to review?” he asked thrusting it into my hand.
Why not, I thought, and took it home for a listen. Glad I did.
Jacob David Bradley, the young man in question, he’s 18, is a real talent and a find. His self-titled CD is as good as it gets considering he was 17 when he recorded this nine-track 32-minute album.
Bradley, then a U-32 senior, worked with Colin McCaffrey, who recorded, produced and played many of the instruments on the album. Through the U-32 Branching Out program, which has students work with a community mentor who is paid a stipend to mentor, Bradley was able to come into McCaffrey’s East Montpelier recording studio and put down his songs. To help with the cost of the recording, Bradley traded some wood stacking with McCaffrey.
McCaffrey has much praise for his mentee. “He’s a talented kid,” he said. “Those songs are pretty much how he wrote them, and he’s a good player, too.”
Bradley has a good singing voice with a bluesy edge that also carries a lot of folk credential. We hear a bit of southern rock vocal quality, perhaps some Delbert McClinton as well. Bradley’s voice can be husky and smooth at the same time.
What we hear are songs that are anything but teen angst tomes, instead there are actual stories about life from an older perspective. This is far more mature music than one would expect from a 17-year-old singer-songwriter.
“Bob Dylan is my biggest musical influence, followed by Gram Parsons and also the Rolling Stones,” Bradley said in an email. The Dylan influence is noticeable in inflection, turns of phrases and attitude, although Bradley has a far better voice than even the rookie 1962 self-titled “Bob Dylan” album.
Bradley played acoustic guitar on the album, and he’s a good player, but the songs were greatly enhanced by McCaffrey’s bass, electric guitar, dobro, violin and organ parts. Joe Franco added solid but understated drums, and we get two tracks of Eric O’Hara’s lyrical pedal steel guitar.
McCaffrey had nothing but praise for Bradley’s attitude and talent. “He’s definitely productive as a writer and has his own style, even though he’s a huge Dylan fan,” he said.
When Bradley first entered the studio, McCaffrey, who has recorded many Vermonters, was impressed. “I thought, wow, this kid’s got some stuff and has a high level of maturity for his age.”
McCaffrey, who also teaches songwriting, liked the material Bradley presented.
“The songs are what they are, and he has the knack already,” he noted.
In all, McCaffrey was impressed with this emerging talent. “He’s very sharp, intelligent, prompt, polite and enthusiastic,” he said. “He’ll do just fine in whatever he does.”
You might have to go to the Maple Corner Store to get a copy of the CD, or you can visit CD Baby, Amazon.com or Spotify to hear the music. The full album is also available to listen to on YouTube.
Jacob David Bradley is an emerging talent. I’m not sure where he’s performing, but catch him if he’s playing. He’s got lots of songs and might not be an unknown and easily accessible for long.