DARRIN BRADBURY – Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs (Anti-)

Talking Dogs & Atom BombsDarrin Bradbury’s Talking Dogs & Atomic Bombs spins in the echo of John Prine’s “speed of the sound of loneliness”. That said, this music doesn’t create the pathos of Sam Stone’s kid singing about “the hole in daddy’s arm”, but it does vibrate with rough neck vernacular tunes that flow like the Mississippi with deep mud, sawdust, dark humor, downhome tales, a few lies, a little truth, a bad election, and some weird form of doomsday optimism – all of which throb into the pulsed heartbeat of Americana folk music. This album is a “not bad” and even “pretty good” addition to that songbook.

I suppose Mark Twain is to blame, that and the invention of the spittoon.

The title song sets the tone. The vocals are matter-of-fact, indifferent to the troubles of the world, and ready for a quiet and clever coffeehouse. Dogs talk; cats don’t; the weatherman is uncertain about the rain, and “the microwave and the atom bomb are distant cousins”. This song chugs with calm rocking front porch advice from someone whose favorite baseball team just isn’t going to win the World Series any time soon.

Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is filled with weird symbolic tangents. ‘Breakfast’ is a drawl of a song which debates squirrel love (and has a tragic ending!). It then imagines mail from some far away dream. And cereal becomes important. I suppose that justifies the title. ‘Hell’s More Or Less The Same’ continues with a Dylanish ramble that dances like a Jimmy Buffet song and sings, with wisdom far removed from ‘Margaritaville’, that “Hell’s more or less the same”, with or without a paid-up confessional bar tab.

‘The Trouble With Time’ gets psychological. Lots of two-edged swords in life. There’s a plain admission that the singer “tripped on his pants and fell on my head”. This tune is tough life, with a great sober melody and a glimmer of hopeful redemption in the idea that “Sometimes I walk through the bad just to walk with you”. Oh – talk about hopeful redemption, Margo Price adds backing vocals.

By the way, Darrin pulls off the modern artistic legerdemain which takes the very mundane stuff that’s seldom noticed, and elevates it to very mundane stuff that, for some odd reason, now seems less mundane, and possibly important. ‘Strange Bird’ is a prime example: It’s a brief conversational tune with a bird that “couldn’t fly”, and the lyrics pinball bounce around the brain to include Walter Cronkite, Coca Cola, Algiers, Dwight Yoakam, Judas Priest, crack cocaine, Captain Crunch, and (of all things) an RCA TV. Connect all those dots at your own peril! Sometimes, Bob Dylan did the same thing.

‘The American Life’ is a centerpiece of the record. A church organ frames the lyrics that paint a Big Mac portrait of Americans, with “political fried chicken”, “stadium churches”, and a “God blessed ignorance”. But this Dorian Gray image is rescued, in a really decent denouement that finds pathos in the “saddest brown eyes I’ve ever seen’ in the faces of “two attendants behind the Texaco counter”. The song parachutes with a soft landing.

That pathos is obviously absent from two songs, ‘So Many Ways To Die (Frozen Pizza)’ and ‘Motel Room, Motel Room’. The former sadly resigns from life without a punch line. And the latter, let’s just say, will never be used as a theme song for a Holiday Inn advertisement. This song has a dark depth, and, perhaps, is the most realistic voice on the record.

My friend, Kilda Defunt, often says, “Sometimes the clown just doesn’t feel like being funny anymore”.

Two other songs, ‘Nothing Much’ and ‘This Too Shall Pass’, rekindle the John Prine connection. That is high praise.

And then there is the final song, ‘Dallas 1963’. Now, very few things are sacred in America, but this day is still seared with 9/11 votive candles. This is a brilliant comment on the assassination. It’s a psychological Jungian dream in which the dreamer becomes Lee Harvey Oswald. I am reminded of (the great) Phil Och’s song ‘The Crucifixion’ that delves deeply into the human soul and simply says, “Beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate”. Thankfully, the song ends with a happy melody as his wife quells the fear with calm assurance that echoes the barbed and always current American sentiment of Frank Zappa’s tune, ‘It Can’t Happen Here’.

Talking Dogs & Atomic Bombs works as a unified whole, set in an American morning that always sips yet another cup of Starbuck’s coffee and contemplates the humour and sadness found within of all our collective (and sometimes unconscious) dreams.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: https://darrinbradbury.com/

‘Breakfast’ – live on TV:

Darrin Bradbury announces new album

Darrin Bradbury

Known for blending dark humor with obvious-once-you-hear-them observations on everyday life, Darrin Bradbury’s songs are both funny and thought-provoking. Today, Bradbury is proud to share his anticipated new album Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs, his first for ANTI- Records.

Produced by Kenneth Pattengale (The Milk Carton Kids), Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is a collection of contemplative songs that were shaped by Bradbury’s own struggles with depression. Using his unique wit, Bradbury paints a lighthearted perspective on the pressures of life in America. He released two tracks from the album this week, including ‘The Trouble With Time’, a stunning duet featuring Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and fellow Nashvillian Margo Price, and ‘This Too Shall Pass’ via Billboard. Bradbury also announced new U.S. tour dates this week supporting Cory Branan, following October dates with John Moreland; in late November, he will embark on his first European/UK tour in support of Jarrod Dickenson.

In addition to Billboard, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs has garnered national praise from a multitude of outlets that include NPR, Rolling Stone Country, No Depression, Wide Open Country, American Songwriter, Americana UK and The Bluegrass Situation.

A self-described folk satirist, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs highlights Bradbury’s natural gift for storytelling; Bradbury enlisted the help of only one other writer for the entire album—ANTI- label-mate, friend, and fellow esteemed Nashville musician, Jeremy Ivey. The tracking of Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs was completed in a similarly simple way; using the same combo of musicians for every song on the record. Aside from producer Pattengale’s mellotron and vocal contributions and the aforementioned Ivey’s bass and piano playing, only two extra musicians were called to round out the band; Alex Muñoz on additional guitars and Dillon Napier on drums.

The only exception is the lone guest vocalist on the album, modern outlaw country queen and longtime supporter of Bradbury, Margo Price, who adds a somber harmony to ‘The Trouble With Time.’ A country ballad tinged with elements of indie rock, Price’s crystalline vocals compliment Bradbury’s signature sound and plainspoken lyrics. Written with his parents in mind, Bradbury wanted his family to have a ‘go-to’ song to share with their friends – a track that represented his unique songwriting style that, in his own words, “wouldn’t weird them out”.

Price commented, “The first time I heard ‘The Trouble With Time’, I was sitting at my kitchen table. Darrin played it for me and I immediately started to cry. It’s just a great song… who doesn’t want to go back to another time and find somebody they lost. I know I do.”

“When I write, there are things that I want to get away with”, Bradbury says. “I want to get away with the line, ‘I woke up this morning and I got out of bed / Tripped on my pants and fell on my head.’”

Overall, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is a beautifully refined version of Darrin Bradbury’s writing; going for broke, connecting the dots, and doing it with blunt honesty that brings it all home.

“If I can get you to take that seriously, and not skip a beat when you listen to it, that’s what I want.”

Darrin Bradbury will be supporting Jarrod Dickenson on his U.K. tour later this year.

Artist’s website: https://darrinbradbury.com/

‘Breakfast’ – official video: