BRAD COLERICK – Tucson (Back 9 Records BN0405)

bradWherever music is made, there will always be artists who have a loyal, often large, following in their own backyard, but who, for whatever reason, never get the breaks (be they airplay, national reviews or touring opportunities) they need to find a wider audience. The Nebraska-born, South Pasadena-based Colerick is one such.

Releasing his solo debut back in 1986, when fame didn’t come calling, he took a job making music for commercials, work that brought him into contact with such names as Shawn Colvin, BB King and Johnny Cash (whose sometimes upright bassist Dave Roe plays on the album) before setting up his own company in 2002, the same year he won an ad industry award for a song he co-wrote with Buddy Guy. Still yearning to make music beyond the world of advertising, he began playing live again, releasing a second album in 2006, a third, featuring a duet with Suzy Bogguss, the year later and his fourth in 2009.

His fifth, largely emerging from sessions at his Wine & Song songwriter showcase, revolves around a theme of time’s passage and, featuring contributions by Canadian fiddler April Verch and Herb Pedersen on backing vocals, is rooted firmly in Americana folk and country with all the mandolin, pedal steel and banjo flavours that brings.

Colerick declares himself a flatlander at heart, something made perfectly clear from the title track opener, a song written by friend David Plenn, which perfectly showcases his warm, slightly nasal California twang voice (the early influence of James Taylor is still apparent), one that’s easy on the ear without ever edging into soporific mellowness and which carries with it emotive notes of aching and yearning.

Save for ‘Hob Thrasher’, a lovely, poignant tale of a 90-year-old fiddler jamming with other musicians in an airport lounge by San Francisco troubadour Michael McNeven (and you really should track down the fingerpicked original), all the other numbers are self-penned. They’re predominantly storysongs, populated by characters facing hard times and difficult choices (‘Late Winter Snow’, ‘Tragedy’), taking life as it comes and drawing wisdom from the experiences (the bluesy ‘Roll On’, a banjo driven ‘Blue Horizon’) and fondly remembering past loves (‘Place Of You’, the bluegrass ‘Brakeman’s Door’).

Colerick is very much a songsmith and the finely crafted material here comes from both workshops and commissions, the former represented by the superb statement of self, ‘This Is What I Do (Mighty Keeper)’, reflecting on choices made and opportunities missed, and the latter finding expression in ‘Hands Of Time (Nancy’s Song)’, a pledge of love written for a friend’s wife’s birthday, and ‘Mother’, which began life as a Mother’s Day commercial and ended up a moving very personal number far beyond simple greeting card sentiments. As a successful advertising veteran, he patently knows how to sell a song, a story, a message. It’s about time more people started buying.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.bradcolerick.com

‘This Is What I Do (Mighty Keeper)’ live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop: