On the back of Lou Bradley’s new album it is written, This album was recorded live at Bill Chambers’ house. Just Bill Chambers, Phillip Chaffer and me, sitting in a circle playing my songs. No bullshit! And that’s a promise kept: there is certainly no bullshit on this album that is full, instead, of poignancy, heart, sadness and the occasional bit of wonder.
Moonshine is dedicated to Bradley’s father, John, who died in April 2014. The album seems shot through with grief for him, but it’s the sort of grief that is always tinged by the happiness of having known someone so well and loved them so much. Consequently there are many joyous moments in these country-folk songs that are simply executed – just Lou, Phil and Bill, as Bradley says – but so layered that they unfurl over repeated listenings and take root in the listener’s brain.
There are stories of Bradley’s life on the north coast of New South Wales – ‘Washed Up Hippy’ and ‘I Like it That Way; a song about the magical impossibility of love (‘Like Making Water’), about the depths of life (‘Wild’ and ‘Winter Blues’) and about her parents (‘Cheers Barbara’, ‘You Were Always There for Me’). Ten songs in all, and all gems.
Bradley’s voice is a strong instrument that is allowed to be vulnerable from time to time, always within Bradley’s control even at the points where sadness is present. It is unpretentious and unself-conscious and, in so many ways, adorable. The unadorned production on the album is what’s needed to keep that voice and its stories at the forefront throughout.
In the last song, ‘You Were Always There for Me’, Bradley sings, ‘I’ll be standing here with my heart wide open/There’ll be no closing this heart any more’. This is a brave statement, and it speaks to that combination of strength and vulnerability apparent in her voice. It’s also a description of this album: open hearted, generous, warm and welcoming. It deserves to be welcomed in return.
Moonshine is out now.