Bradford Loomis - Bravery & the Bell
Washington State has produced its share of first class songwriters spanning multiple genres and Bradford Loomis is ready to join their ranks. His new album Bravery & the Bell mines his own life for the material in a way that challenges listeners and audibly provides Loomis with the catharsis he obviously seeks. An artist’s work, however, should never be overt personal diary – it’s the transformative powers of imagination that make it truly resonant with listeners. Imagination manifests itself over the course of these seven songs in the creative arrangements Loomis crafts for his songwriting. His trademark talent is for taking traditional musical elements and refurbishing them with idiosyncratic twists and additions that reflect his individuality. Brandon Bee produced the album with the exception of the final track and first single, but Bravery & the Bell maintains a consistency of sound from the first to the last that shows Loomis’ attention to detail.
The album is neatly divided between commercially minded tracks, a couple of acoustic numbers, and a duo of genuine songwriting clinics. The first of this group, the album’s more mainstream oriented fare, includes the opener “Wind & Woe”, “The Swinging Bell”, and the final song “Across the Divide”. The first of these songs begins Bravery & the Bell on a resounding note without overdoing it. There are a number of critical choices Loomis makes during a song like this that puts it over the top for the album’s opening curtain – namely some tough-minded guitar and brief blasts of organ. “Across the Divide” has a lighter hand, perhaps a reflection of its subject matter, and has an appropriately rustic feel while still presenting a broad-based and accessible sound sure to garner much attention. There’s little difficulty in hearing why Loomis picked this for the album’s lead off single.
The acoustic tracks might sound a little too similar to some people, but there’s no question that songwriting of a superior stripe is responsible for these songs. They come at ideal points in the track listing, as well, and elicit some of Loomis’ best performances on the album. “Though the Days Are Fleeting” is the more successful of the two thanks to its stronger poetic veneer and the combination of Loomis’ voice and the words bring listeners closer to his personal experience. The songwriting clinics, for lack of a better term, on Bravery and the Bell will stick in your memory for a while. “Chasing Ghosts” is the more typical of the two, but it’s memorable for how it develops in a very artful and unexpected way thanks to the unusual melodic changes it makes while still sounding very much within the Americana style. The second of these two tracks, “Drive You Home”, finds Loomis indulging himself in some soul singing mixed with some of his traditionally minded touches and the effect is rather awesome. It’s especially impressive to hear how comfortably Loomis moves his voice to suit the song. Bravery & the Bell is a solid achievement from the first through the last and solidifies Loomis’ standing as one of the pre-eminent young songwriters working today, regardless of genre.