Robert Bradley

Blues Vocals, Guitar worked with Blackwater Surprise

Born: 1950 Evergreen, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise was formed in 1994 when former members of the band Second Self met a blind street performer by the name of Robert Bradley. Michael and Andrew Nehra developed and produced the project, delicately crafting the Motown-influenced roots. The first two recordings preserve a time of magical unity that will resonate with effusive soul.

Recorded at White Room Studios in Detroit, an international music epicenter, the sessions were delicately captured with vintage analog recording equipment to complement performances that recreated a lost era. The Nehras' intention in collaborating with Robert Bradley was to interpret the work of the veteran musician who had been singing in Detroit's Eastern Market for a couple of decades. They hoped to put at the center the raw intensity and soulfulness of Robert's voice, which captivated them when they encountered him singing outside of the White Room. They met on a day when Robert had been kicked out of Eastern Market. In the studio a week or so later the Nehras realized within minutes of turning on their amps and testing the waters that the initial idea to develop Robert with a production deal and musicians to complement him was insignificant. A pure, honest, marriage of ecstasy and experience that no one expected was obvious. From that moment forward, the group wrote and performed live, instantly garnishing a buzz in the local Detroit music scene.

String arranger Paul Riser and other Motown veterans participated in the recording of the tracks. Paul arranged some of the most legendary tracks during the Motown years. The sound of the music was truly an amazing mix of influences that eventually formed RBBS. The crossroads of the Rolling Stones, Al Green, the Band, and Motown was a perfect cocktail led by the soulful, timeless voice of Robert.

The Nehras recorded and produced a collection of songs, intending to eventually get the group signed. As the word spread, Peter Robinson of RCA Records took a stand to get behind music that the mainstream did not immediately grasp. Those who helped contribute and pay homage to the undeniable beauty of the project were crusader; they spread the word so everyone could experience the spell cast over the listener by a timeless classic.

Detroit-based rocker Kid Rock and Robert Bradley are long-time friends, but also share a mutual respect for one another’s music. Robert Bradley was featured on the Kid Rock track "I Got One For Ya" from his Devil Without a Cause LP, and Kid Rock guested on “Higher” and “Tramp 2” for RBBS’s Time To Discover. The Nehra's also contributed to production and song writing on Devil Without a Cause, recorded at White Room. The community was brewing.

The first two releases were the true Blackwater Surprise with a unprecedented stamp of timelessness.

Since separating from the Nehra Bros/RCA and Vanguard, Robert Bradley has paired his gospel-honed vocals and bluesman's undressed piano style with musicianship by guitarist Matthew J. Ruffino, who is the longest standing member of the Blackwater Surprise. Newer members include guitarist Zachary Throne, bassist Larry "Bones" Dennison, drummer Oscar Seaton, percussionist Craig Krampf and producer Bruce Robb on B3 and Wurlitzer. Five years after the last studio record, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise delivered “Out of the Wilderness” for 2008. The long-awaited album was the fifth major release from the blind artist who illuminates his listeners with his lyrical and musical vision. Recording from an independent label, Robert’s music has become an enlightening enigma, transcending the borders of rock, blues and R&B.

Five years after their last studio record, Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise released Out of the Wilderness. The album is the fifth major release from the blind artist who illuminates his listeners with his lyrical and musical vision.

A former RCA and Vanguard artist, Robert returns to his roots in Out of the Wilderness. Across an selection of new material, Robert performs with a passionate sincerity whether the subject is his daughter leaving home for the first time in the unusually up-tempo “Beautiful Girl,” or his yearning for true love in the achingly romantic “Gotta Find a Woman,” or his heartfelt longing for his home in the ballad to his state “Alabama,” or just a brother living in “Americaland.” The ten song emotional journey exposes Robert doing what he does best - captivate with his unmistakable soulfully expressive voice that is deepened by a sense of his hard-won personal life experience.

“This record brings me back to the time when I started out as a singer-songwriter, where the music did not need the New York Philharmonic to make it real. It’s just me at the piano with the musicians around me finding my groove. I wanted to just be Robert and sing straight like Jim Reeves on ‘Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone.’ I wanted to do a record that was innocent. That’s why I say ‘Out of the Wilderness’ because it is like I’ve been reborn,” explains Bradley.

A year in the making, Out of the Wilderness showcases a brilliant collaboration between artist and producer Bruce Robb with Bradley’s raw authentic spirit equally matched by one of music production’s purists. Robb’s vintage analog recording techniques and a musician’s soul create the sublime sonic landscape that pairs the rich gospel-honed vocals and bluesman’s undressed piano style with superlative musicianship by guitarists Matthew J. Ruffino and Zachary Throne, bassist Larry “Bones” Dennison, drummer Oscar Seaton, percussionists Craig Krampf and Scot Little Bihlman, and Robb himself on B3 and Wurlitzer.

“What makes this record unique is that it is coming from a place that is pure feel, something that is not easy to do. Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles... there just aren’t that many of them. It takes a special kind of artist, and that’s what makes this record so honest. It’s that irresistible groove,” describes Robb.

With the added magic of being one of the final recordings from the famous Cherokee Studios, the resulting album is best described as classic R&B that is remarkably contemporary, and everything a listener and fan can hope for.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley has awarded Robert Bradley a Certificate of Commendation for the song “Alabama,” which was formally dedicated to the state.

The songs “Love You in the Daytime,” “Cryin’ My Eyes Out,” and “Everybody Wanna Party” are featured in the motion picture Love N’ Dancing starring Amy Smart and Billy Zane due in US theatres March 2009.


By admin | September 22, 2009 - 2:58 pm - Posted in Music ReviewsOut of the Wilderness


May 02, 2009

Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise
There’s no better purveyor of the swampy waters of roots music today than pianist/songwriter Robert Bradley. He and his band Blackwater Surprise mark their studio return after a six-year absence with the agreeably soulful “Out of the Wilderness.” It’s his fifth outing since 1994 when the blind busker was plucked off Detroit’s streets to document his rough-hewn tunes teeming with homespun lyrical acumen. Reunited with keyboardist Bruce Robb, who produced 2003’s “Still Lovin’ You,” Bradley brightens the CD’s 10 originals with his effervescence, grooved choruses and gravelly voice, reminiscent of James Blood Ulmer. He pays homage to his home state on the country-inflected “Alabama”; gives it up to Ray Charles on the “Shaft”-like, reggae-tinged “Americaland”; and dances through the R&B and rock of “Everybody Wanna Party,” a perfect summer anthem. There’s not a moment of contrivance here, just pure, spirited fun.





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