Brad Dear has a new EP coming out!
I was having a ponder about when I first heard about Brad Dear – and realised with some alarm that it was five years ago! The local radio station on the way in to work was featuring a young musician from Southwell who was on the verge of releasing a single on iTunes the proceeds from which would support the charity Help for Heroes. I downloaded it and liked it very much, and it might well have been that that was where my journey with Brad ended – but for the fact that he was somewhat taken under the Ferocious Dog wing – so he’s been a regular feature of my gig repertoire ever since.
Most of those gigs have been as a solo performer – and I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing his various stages of forming bands – he’s probably had more line-up changes than Ferocious Dog, haha! It’s been a genuine privilege to have been able to watch Brad develop as a performer and see some of his songs evolve into the accomplished anthems they’ve become. So I was really excited when he asked me if I’d be happy to get hold of his forthcoming EP a little early to be able to write a review, which is what you’re reading now!
For those of you who’ve seen Brad perform either alone or with band you’ll have heard these songs before – indeed, a couple have appeared on previous recorded releases but here with the additional input of Chris on percussion, Andy on bass and in particular Lizzie on fiddle they now feel like they’ve evolved fully. From reading his interview with Ella on her Snotography page it’s a conscious choice to have included songs that he’s been kicking around live for a while – with new songs promised for an album to follow (exciting!).
This collection of five songs is – in true Brad style – drenched with wanderlust and a discomfort in being constrained by the state of modern world. It kicks off with title track The Only Road I Know, the guitar intro is lifted by the soaring fiddle overlaid – and it feels like Brad’s vocals are a little more comfortable, even since the tender age I first saw him perform he’s always had a powerful and gravelly voice – but there’s gentler sections in here, softened further by backing vocals too – all underpinned by the solid rhythm section of Andy and Chris. A really melodic call to action for folk to stand up for themselves!
Special Brew is probably their signature tune – I have at least two previous recorded versions of it, although this more definitive one is probably my favourite – percussion is assisted with some clapping, then as the song moves in there’s some electric guitar, fiddle riffles and even some banjo overlaid courtesy of Jason Hart, a fantasy tale of finding that perfect house to run away to – with just the small stumbling block of needing to be able to find half a million quid to do it. The ripple of applause at the end brings it to a happy end that will leave you smiling – and looking forward to the inevitable conga-lines that will accompany it on festival fields in the summer!
Billy Brown is another re-worked older track – but again so much more developed, if memory serves it’s about a bloke Brad met on a bus. Chronicling his determination to choose their own path through life, with the acknowledgement that occasionally there might be a need to sell out to ‘the man’ in order to raise some funds – again there’s some much more subtle vocal work from Brad. Chasing of dreams with language hinting at paths and routes weaves together those two themes of finding both a destiny as well as a destination.
The next track is Far Away which kicks in with some acoustic guitar eventually joined by percussion, bass and fiddle – it’s a proper foot-tapper right from where it kicks in – the gentle pace with the violin fluttering over make for a charming listening experience. The lyrics are reminiscent, again expressing a need to find a better place – there’s a lovely interruption of percussion pattern in there which jolts you away from getting lost in the revelry of the song – a soaring fiddle solo comes in before the final chorus, then returns to close out the track.
The finalé of I’m Still Here picks up the pace – electric guitar, insistent percussion and bass along with more urgent-yet-haunting fiddle work. The intro bizarrely brings to mind a more cheerful sounding version of Gaz Brookfield’s Black Dog Day – although I wouldn’t say that the remainder of the song does! You can almost sense the fun Chris must be having behind his drum kit on this one, whilst the lyrics evoke escapism and a general malaise at the state of the world and how we treat our planet. A great way to finish and leave you eager for more!
Since Brad stabilised his line-up with Chris and Andy there’s been a real step change in the sound of the band live, when Lizzie appeared first at Farmer Phil’s last year with her fiddle and backing vocals it was the properly the missing piece that as watchers we perhaps didn’t realise was missing until we were presented with it. Suddenly those instrumentals have a real point of interest overlaid onto them – and well, think about the music I typically like, a fiddle is always going to go down well with me, isn’t it?
I’ve always loved the recorded material Brad has released but this is by far his most accomplished – a much fuller, richer and tighter sound both from the musicians and perhaps most tellingly his vocals, he’s not just gone for the full on growl throughout but mixed it up with some gentler sections. I’ve had it on loop for a few days now and hear something new each time it loops around again – there’s longevity in this, and it bodes really well for future recordings and hopefully an eventual album release.
You can pre-order The Only Road I Know at Brad’s website – it’s due for release on 10th March 2017, when it will also be availabl on your favourite digital music outlets too. This occasion will be marked the day after at 11th by an EP launch party at Nottingham’s Bodega for which tickets are still available – it promises to be an awesome night too. 2017 looks set to be a pretty exciting year for Brad Dear and the band – I’m really looking forward to continuing to watch from the wings and see how everything develops!
Huge thanks to Brad for giving me a chance of a sneaky peek at what he’s about to release – you’re all going to love it when you get your hands on it!