Bradford Loomis – Bravery & the Bell
Washington State based singer/songwriter Bradford Loomis isn’t some pretender dabbling in Americana music. He’s unafraid to show off his wide array of influences, but Loomis also shows a complete understanding of the traditions he works in on each new outing. His latest release, Bravery & the Bell, clocks in at a little over thirty minutes in length and features seven songs that both play to preconceptions as well as challenging them. Loomis isn’t averse to turning his talents in a commercial direction, but he always carries into those endeavors an obvious insistence on remaining true to his vision and never pandering. He also shows a pronounced penchant for revitalizing time-tested elements by bringing his own unique turns of phrase and imagery to bear on the songwriting. It’s an irresistible brew that results from all of this and the added personal feel blanketing the artistry at work here gives it much needed intimacy.
“Wind & Woe” gets Bravery and the Bell off to a great start. There’s actually an epic in miniature, windswept quality about the song that’s further embellished by the presence of Hammond organ flashes at key points throughout the arrangement. Loomis has a deceptively wide vocal range, but this standard sound from him is the bedrock upon which he’s primarily built his songs and it is effective in this setting. “Chasing Ghosts” has a much darker tone than the earlier song and a more constructed arrangement. Despite the obvious effort put into building this track, it has a natural and dramatic sound. Loomis makes use of some atmospheric touches throughout the course of the track, but he never pushes them too hard onto listeners and weighs the work down with pretentiousness. The album goes quieter with the song “In the Time of the Great Remembrance” with its gentle acoustic guitars and carefully wrought textures. Loomis’ writing raises the bar here, as well, with a lyric that is easily comprehensible, yet blindingly poetic. It culminates in just the right way with a finish full of passion and blood.
The uptempo beat of “The Swinging Bell” comes at a good time on the album. Loomis opens with a quick pace, but settles down considerably on songs two and three, before quickening the tempo with this fourth song. His lyrics don’t suffer any in this setting and the vocal delivery they are invested with accentuates their strengths. His music takes on a very different flavor with the song “Drive You Home” and proves himself quite adept at handling soul-styled groove music without ever sacrificing his credibility. Bravery & the Bell concludes with another commercial sounding track “Across the Divide” that makes a great bookend with the opener “Wind & Woe”. There’s a hopeful note struck by this song that further benefits from the resonance it achieves with a title that references the tradition wherein he works. The song’s melodic strengths are responsible for much of its merit, but the sleek and balanced production further aids it. Bravery & the Bell wrestles with its themes in a substantive way and Loomis’ talents as a storyteller, albeit an unusual one, shine through.