Twenty five year old singer/songwriter Sam Bradley may not be on everyone’s playlist (yet), but this artist is certainly gaining notice in the music industry, and his ever-growing audience will tell you that he’s definitely one to look out for.
In November 2010, Bradley unveiled (to an eager base of listeners) Zuni, his second album. Named after a town in New Mexico that he and his friends visited, Zuni not only showcases Bradley’s talent, but also his memories, his emotions and his growth as an artist.
No song on the album is like another, which is why it truly is the perfect life soundtrack, especially for those going from youth to adulthood, and those needing a break from the mundane repetitive nature of most albums on the market.
Bradley’s “Lights” features a rollicking rhythm at the onset, which is something straight out of a western. Paired with drums, bass and guitar, Bradley’s gritty voice is like that of a cowboy riding into a small shanty town at sunset, ready to take on any outlaw in his way. The “lights” to which Bradley refers are perhaps a reference to fame, or the the cities in which people make it as musicians; regardless, it is evident by the end of the song that the speaker longs for a simple life where all he needs are the ones he loves. The instruments are perfectly layered and just as they build strength, so does Bradley’s vocals, mirroring his refusal to give into the “lights”.
In sharp contrast to “Lights” is a longtime audience favourite, “Scared”. This dreamy and somewhat sorrowful tune has an instant ability to tug at the listener’s heart and keep them captivated, longing to know exactly what Bradley’s underlying message really is. The mournful strings and enchanting piano set a perfect backdrop , while the gradual addition of guitar, bass and drums solidifies the song as another masterpiece. When Bradley asks “what do you know about lonely, you have everyone you need?” it reveals itself as the perfect summary of a man going from boyhood to manhood, and facing the harsh realities of emotions that go alongside that.
“Details” (a new favourite of mine) , complete with the addition of a gospel choir (featuring Bradley’s sister, Grace Lindsey) is much more serious and deep than the other songs on the album. This commentary about a person on death row, is not something one expects to hear coming out of a young songwriter. This, however, is not the first serious issue Bradley has sung about; He has covered his mother’s (Lee Lindsey) song “Like a River” which deals with gun control in the USA. Despite it’s heavy subject matter, the beauty of the song and deep emotional connection Bradley shares with his lyrics are obvious and immediately send chills down your spine.
Next, is a softer melody, “Wide Open”. With it’s pulsating, heartbeat-like rhythm, and soft guitar plucking complimenting Bradley’s vocals, the eerie yet beautiful song is truly representative of Bradley’s talent. The layering of Bradley’s voice cleverly echoes the many feelings Bradley seems to go through in the song. Just as he says “I resent who I am” he also admits his thoughts have “never been this clear”. The chorus instruments seem to almost chase chase the vocals, though Bradley sings “I’m not running, I’m just accepting, don’t feel that fate has brought me here.” Yes, this singer is definitely clever beyond his 25 years.
Now, if there were ever the perfect combination of Heartland Rock and alternative country , the result is without at doubt, “No One and Me”. The lonesome lyrics, are juxtaposed against a somewhat upbeat accompaniment as well as Grace Lindsey’s gorgeous backing vocals. It seems the solace in the song is found through music, just as the lyrics’ sadness are somehow masked by the beauty of the melody. The imagery of the “sun surrenders to the moon’s demands” is perhaps also a metaphor for despondency taking over a somewhat optimistic person, now finding himself in solitude with only their thoughts to occupy them.
And perhaps to lighten the mood, Bradley chose his lively, honky-tonk tale called “Passport” as the next song on the album. This hilarious (and somewhat wild) series of events Bradley sings about, leads to the poor guy losing his passport. The saloon-like piano playing matches the perfectly crazy story, and live this song is always a crowd pleaser. Bradley knows that “amazing things will happen” to him, but he needs to live it up while he waits for his new passport to arrive.
Once a YouTube video Bradley shared with the world, “It Begins” comes back remastered, and better than ever. The exhaustion and conflicting emotions in the song comes from the speaker needing to leave a relationship because he’s “feeling wiser now”. It is a real and honest look into love and leaving love, and it’s simplicity keeps the song from being overproduced or sounding forced. When you listen to this song, it’s almost as though Bradley takes you on his painful journey of ending a relationship; This humble approach is just one more thing that keeps his listeners hooked.
And lastly, the album is rounded out by the calm and soothing, “Sea Blue”. A lone guitar paired only with Bradley’s reassuring vocals is like the waves of an ocean softly crashing into the shoreline. This pensive song has Bradley realizing that “to live for love is clearly nonsense… we seem to need a whole lot more.” Being at one with nature, feeling the wind blow, rain pour, and then seeing the sky become blue is the realization that Bradley, like the world cannot always be sad. It leaves listeners with a final breath of resolution, and is the perfect song to end his incredible album Zuni.
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