Irish born Bob Bradshaw relocated to the United States many moons ago and has since worked tirelessly to emulate the roots-rock stylings of Texan performers that he grew up adoring. The result is a monumental body of work that has seen him heralded around the globe for his own unique and intangible version of Americana.
This year saw the release of his eighth studio album, Queen of the West. It’s a charming and indelible collection of songs that will defy any expectations you might have had from the country and Americana scene. Not content with the generics of the country world singing of love, quarrels and dingy bars Bradshaw has turned Queen of the West into a touching tale that works more as a stage performance than a mere album. I takes a series of cross-connected songs with an actual cast of characters and explores issues of identity, redemption and loss as the Queen of the West herself is a trigger-happy protagonist with more that a little blood on her hand. It makes for a fascinating performance that veers from the tender and touching to the frankly spasmodic tunes like Ruby Black which bring a true sense of atmosphere to Bradshaw’s work as his sporadic and occasionally discordant melodies all combine like crashing waves as crescendos of sound all come violently together.
With this it’s clear that Bradshaw has a natural flare for the melodramatic crating songs that play out like a hardened Western drama. It’s an element that gives his work a real edge as instead of swinging from song to song, we are instead encouraged to engage with these people; to learn their loves, their hates, their pains – and with each and every lesson you find yourself drifting closer to them. Bradshaw has the ability to give you an emotional investment not merely in the music he produces but in the cast of his songs. Atop of this sits the unarguable fact that Bradshaw is also one of the most accomplished performers of his kind, with a grandiose and orchestral notion that he brings to life seemingly effortlessly. Queen of the West is rife with a truly bizarre and unpredictable collection of melodies from the melancholic to the daring and rousing. It’s a stunning collection that is as unpredictable as the human heart which is a lesson which seems to run strong on his work.
Queen of the West is a beautiful and heartening story that has something for everyone with its tender messages and beautiful sentiments. Bradshaw takes his silken tones and overlays them with music that could make a one-hundred piece orchestra seethe with envy. The whole affair is an undeniably beautiful experience that has to be heard to be believed.
Review by Joe Knipe