Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CD Review - Davis Bradley - CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF

Image635543011567013655On the runway this week at the Prescription Bluegrass Airport we have the first recording effort of the Virginia based duo, Davis Bradley, ( that's Kathy Davis and Brad Bishop) entitled: CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF.

Having met less than a year ago, brought together by their love of music, Kathy and Brad filed a flight plan to start a band and play music together. Since that time they have played over 125 “gigs” and have opened for headliners such as The Boxcars. Performing at festivals, wineries and coffee houses. This inaugural CD of 12 selections includes half Davis Bradley originals and half covers of “Bluegrass/Country tunes.” All this without the inconvenience of a TSA pat-down.

Most of the essential ingredients for a successful, airplay worthy album are all here. The recording, engineering, artwork and production are first class. However, repeated listenings found me wishing that Brad and Kathy would have waited a little longer before heading into the recording studio. In the case of Cleared For Takeoff, eight months clearly was not an adequate amount of time for the duo to get their vocal, harmonic and technical intricacies dialed in. Believe me when I say that it is difficult for me to be a Debbie Downer here. But apply any analogy you like; a baseball glove, fine wine, a guitar, a pair of boots, even bananas. They all get better with age and must be given time to work out the kinks and let time, chemistry and familiarity work their magic.

The turbulence, or loss of cabin pressure if you will, is most noticeable towards the rear vocal section of the plane. On some tracks the vocals are totally acceptable and show the capability of Davis Bradley to get it just right. Such as their rendition of “Dixie Cannonball.” They achieved a family harmony type vibe there that really worked. It's obvious that this is a song they both know well and perform with confidence. In contrast, the vocals on “Leaving on a Jet Plane” left me waiting to hear the actual melody of the John Denver classic, but it never emerged. Vague harmony parts were sang as leads... and harmony parts never really, well.... harmonized.

I am the first to admit that studio microphones are scary enough to even look at, let alone trying to sing into one when they are plugged into a brutally honest recording console. It is easy to understand how some vocals reflect the uneasiness of dealing with a live mic while wearing earphones. But, these are easy fixes and nothing a few more hours of monotonous rehearsal could not have smoothed over before hitting the record button. That said, Cleared For Takeoff is still enjoyable despite a few rough spots that are compensated for with Kathy and Brad's heartfelt love of what they do. I am impressed with the zeal and passion they brought into this project.

Through the wizardry of recording technology, Kathy sings and plays mandolin, lead and rhythm guitar while Brad sings, plays clawhammer & 5-string banjo, rhythm and lead guitar, all at the same time! George Thomas helps out on bass and the supernatural ( Boxcars) Ron Stewart adds 40 years worth of fiddle playing. The highlight of several tracks.

My desire, my wish, is that Davis Bradley take the lessons learned in this their first solo flight and apply them to subsequent departures. From what I understand they are surrounded and supported by good, road and business seasoned friends ( Tom Gray, Kevin Church, Ron Stewart) helping them in and out of the studio. I anticipate Davis Bradley's next boarding call.

The Dali Lama once said...or was it Jimmy Martin? : “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” And if those ol' boys are right, Davis Bradley are indeed Cleared For Takeoff.

Your own copy of Cleared For Takeoff can be acquired at www.davisbradleyduo.com

Reviewed for Prescription Bluegrass by Marty Warburton / PreWarBone@gmail.com


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