I first saw Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise at the Basilica Block Party a couple of years ago. My memory was of an edgier and funkier band than I saw recently at the Cabooze. Perhaps that's due to 'personnel' changes; Robert Bradley himself struck me as more soulful than I remembered. It's easy to see how he's compared to Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. The music is not as 'alternative' as described in reviews, at least in performance, but demonstrates that music is a hybrid, with diverse influences. If you take a blind r and b singer from Detroit, and mix that Motown sound with an alternative rock and roll band, and some wah wah, you get something completely different, yet oddly familiar.
The Cabooze was packed with a post-college age crowd, and their amateur hour St. Patrick's Day drunkenness was a definite hindrance to enjoyment of Robert Bradley's performance. To their credit, they were devoted Blackwater Surprise fans, singing the songs word for word.
Brothers Andrew and Michael Nehra, who co-wrote man of the songs on the band's first two CDs, have started their own band, Chrome Flies. Taking their place very capably are Matt "Mutt" Ruffino on guitar and Tom Wilber, who has long played with the band on bass. Jeff "Shakey" Fowlkes remains on drums as the backbone of the band. Randy Sly is as passionate on keyboards as Bruce McCabe, but made me long for some Booker T.-like solo work.
Songs performed included favorites: Baby, Mr. Tony, Gambler, Take Love and Receive It, Trouble Brother, and After Your Love. The evening featured some great solo work on keyboards and guitars, including some nice wah wah, which is always a crowd pleaser.
While no new material was performed, Robert Bradley promised a new CD to be released this fall, and ended by reminding the crowd that his music is just rhythm and blues and rock and roll mixed together. Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise doesn't come through town often - catch them next time.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Rebecca West, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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