Dale Ann Bradley: On Top of Kentucky

by Susan Marquez

 

We’ve reported on Dale Ann Bradley before in The Bluegrass Standard, and this time, we are happy to announce that she has had a busy year, with a new album release in March 2019. The Hard Way is a collection of ten new recordings, all showcasing the singer/songwriter’s heartfelt voice.

When last we spoke with Dale Ann in November 2018, she explained how from her yard, “at the top of Kentucky” she could see the Virginia/Tennessee state line. Her people worked in the coal mines, and she was raised as the daughter of a Primitive Baptist preacher.

“There were no instruments in my church,” she says in her thick Kentucky accent. “My first memories were singing acapella in church. That’s where I learned about minor modal tunes.”

When Dale Ann’s parents moved the family from Kentucky to Detroit in the late 1960s, a great uncle there bought her a Martin guitar. He also gave her sampler 8-track tapes with an eclectic mix of artists. “Through those tapes, I was introduced to artists like Dolly Parton, Faron Young, Dionne Warwick, Jonny Mathis and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.” Time spent in the high school band led to Dale Ann’s first band with the band director’s wife and a couple of other students. The band, called Backporch Grass, played gigs around the area. In the early 1980s, Backporch Grass made the finals of the Marlboro Country Music Round-Up in Lexington, Kentucky.

Dale Ann has taken what she learned in the church, in the high school band, and by playing with Backporch Grass and carried it into a professional career that has been very impressive. She is a six-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year award, and she was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in May 2018. “The ceremony was at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, which is a very special place to me,” says Dale Ann. Although she was offered a scholarship to attend college, Dale Ann didn’t go. After high school, she got hired to work at Renfro Valley, known as “Kentucky’s Country Music State Capital.” The 90-acre complex features show theatres, RV parks, and a shopping village. Dale Ann played at the Friday Night Barn Dance and was invited to stay, getting a long-term contract. It wasn’t long before she was performing on all the shows and recorded The Sunday Morning Gatherin’, the second oldest radio show in America after the Grand Ole Opry.

“I learned so much working at Renfro, so to be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame there was extra special.”

Dale Ann performed in early November this year

at the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. Presented as part of the annual museum celebration Bluegrass and Beyond, the performance was in the Ford Theatre, where she performed several songs from her new album.

The Hard Way album is set up as a story from start-to-finish, giving the collection of songs a cohesive theme. Included in the Pinecastle Records project is a cover of Wheel in the Sky, which has Dale Ann taking a unique approach to the classic rock song made famous by Journey.

“I think Steve Perry is one of the best vocalists to ever live,” says Bradley. “And the lyrics of that song are like something Bill Monroe would have written.”

Also, on the album is Pretty, Dark Hearted Emma Brown, an old Appalachian theme which was co-written by Dale Ann with her brother, Nathaniel Price, marking his first-ever penned song.  The title of the album comes from a song that was written and originally recorded by Jim Croce, The Hard Way Every Time. Dale Ann’s cover of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe was as hauntingly beautiful as the original. The project concludes with Dale Ann’s take on the 1970 Grateful Dead song Ripple. Dale Ann discovered the band while in high school.

Still, a member of the all-female group Sister Sadie, Dale Ann enjoys finding songs from other genres and changing the arrangements to fit their style of music. The supergroup’s album Sister Sadie II was nominated for the 2019 GRAMMY awards in the category for Best Bluegrass Album. She traveled to Los Angeles with the other members of Sister Sadie to attend the award ceremony on February 10. While it didn’t win the GRAMMY, the album has been well-received. That wasn’t Dale Ann’s first time in GRAMMY territory. Her release Pocket Full of Keys was also nominated for a GRAMMY in 2015.


 

For more on Dale Ann visit her website

 

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