Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Woman in Bluegrass music are coming into prominence with a sound as hard driving and exciting as the men who have dominated this genre since its early roots. Dale Ann Bradley is among the top performing woman artists in Bluegrass and her newest project – "Catch Tomorrow" leaves no doubt about it. I had the pleasure of chatting with Dale Ann recently. She is a humble, gentle soul with a huge talent for the music she loves.
I started out by asking Dale Ann to describe her career progression. She replied that it hasn't been fast moving but rather steady every year. She has a strong desire and drive to write music. Her career has allowed her to get to know a lot of good people. Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner were one of the 1st recorded music she had heard when she was about 6 years old but, the biggest influence on her career was her singing at a Primitive Baptist Church as a child.
I asked Dale Ann who she admired most from her contemporaries. She immediately responded that she was a big fan of Blue Highway. She felt that they would "go down amongst the best." She also stated an admiration for Alison Brown and Alison Krauss.
Alison Brown, co-owner of Compass Records, produced Dale Ann's newest project "Catch Tomorrow" and is featured on banjo on several cuts on the CD. I asked Dale Ann, why she chose Alison and Compass Records for "Catch Tomorrow". She responded that she was very fortunate to be on Alison's label. She has "always been impressed with her playing." Compass has been progressive with featuring roots artists and Dale Ann was attracted to the artwork and sound being produced on the Compass label. "Catch Tomorrow" is Compass' first truly bluegrass release. Alison had been listening for and thinking about a bluegrass artist to record for some time. Dale Ann feels that "Catch Tomorrow" was chosen because Alison and she had been "thinking on the same page" of what the project should be. Dale Ann is "tickled to death" to have been chose for that honor.
Up until last October, Dale Ann's band had consisted of Vicki Simmons, a long term friend and collaborator on many of Dale Ann's songs. Without elaborating on the reasons behind the break up of her former band, Dale Ann preferred to express excitement over the new band line up to include Mike Bub on Bass, Trey Ingle on Fiddle, Jeff Parker on Mandolin, and Ramona Church on Banjo. Trey, Jeff and Ramona will all lend vocals to the group's performances.
I turned the conversation toward women's role in Bluegrass and music. I asked Dale Ann for her thoughts on Alison Brown's comment about it being an exciting time for women in Bluegrass music. Dale Ann quickly concurred. She said there are many "Female pickers who are very good" on the circuit today. "Women have started to assert themselves more. They have stories, expressions and emotions to tell. Bands with women are growing." I asked Dale Ann to give me her thoughts on how times have changed for women since she started her career. She said she has "noticed there are not many festivals with only one female act these days." "Promoters are more comfortable in bringing on the music people like. Women have some strong material. Seems like women bravely face more issues to write about. Women have excelled in doing that. People do care and relate to hardships women face."
I commented that her writing seems to tell stories of her own life. She immediately agreed that her writing comes from her own experiences or that of her ancestors. She also stated that some material comes from the experiences of people who are near and dear to her. She stated that it was "how I tend to write. It’s the way I feel. Maybe I'm just too serious." Personally, I believe Dale Ann writes from her heart.
Dale Ann's best memory of her career was her experience in Ireland at the Oster Folk Festival. She had "never seen an audience so absorbed in the music and to show such emotion." She went to explain that she felt the people understood "What the music really means. It's a communion thing, healing. People were so interested in the attributes of the music. Absorbed in what each song had to say. It's their culture to work hard. Everything is well cared for. They are not eat up with material things." Dale Ann also commented that she found a similar feeling in Japan. Each trip was "so memorable."
I thanked Dale Ann for her time and candor. She was a delight to speak with and quite modest about her own role in furthering women's penetration into Bluegrass. Quite honestly, she's a top notch professional with big stories to tell. Listen well.
For a larger selection of CD's by Dale Ann Bradley look here:
Dale Ann Bradley