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Bradley Walker
Highway Of Dreams

Review By Steven Stone
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  Once in a great while you hear a voice that grabs you after a couple of seconds. Bradley Walker has just that kind of voice. I first heard him on the Celebration of Life Musicians Against Childhood Cancer anthology CD. His version of the Bill Monroe classic "Sugar-Coated Love" stood out among the many other stellar contributions. Frankly, he may have the finest male bluegrass voice I've ever heard.

Born with muscular dystrophy and wheelchair-bound since birth, his disability hasn't slowed down Walker one jot. Ever since his first brush with the concert stage, singing with the Oak Ridge boys at the ripe old age of three, it was clear that music would be his life's avocation. Early in his career Walker sang in country bands, but upon hearing Rounder #0044 J.D. Crowe and the New South he began to focus on bluegrass music. Soon he was attending bluegrass festivals and singing with bluegrass heavyweights, many who contributed to his debut release. Background singers on Highway of Dreams include Cia Cherryholmes, Larry Cordle, Vince Gill, Sonya Isaacs, Alecia Nugent, Jerry Salley, Rhonda Vincent and IIIrd Tyme Out's Russell Moore. Instrumentalists on the album are equally impressive. They include Ron Block on banjo, Aubrey Haynie and Jim Van Cleve on fiddle, Clay Hess on guitar, Rob Ickes and Randy Kohrs on dobro, and Adam Steffey on mandolin. Produced by Grammy-winning Carl Jackson (who also contributed four of the twelve songs) Highway of Dreams ranks as on of the best first releases from any young singer, in bluegrass, country, or pop.

What makes Bradley Walker so special? First his baritone voice has just the right tone, not too dark, not too light. Then his phrasing sounds so natural and effortless. But if you've ever spent any time singing, you realize that every phrase can be delivered a number of ways. Walker manages to choose the way that works for maximum impact and musicality. Take the Larry Cordle classic "When I'm Hurtin';" Walker captures both the swing and sentiment of the song so perfectly that I doubt I will ever be completely happy with anyone else's version.

Highway of Dreams' sonics are equal to the musical content. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Luke Wooten at Station West studio in Nashville, TN, the sound perfectly balances warmth and clarity. Even when vocalists lean on the three-part harmonies the individual voices never get muddy and the background instrumental bed remains clean and natural.

I could continue raving on about Highway of Dreams for another 500 words, but I'll spare you. Just buy it. I guarantee if you are into bluegrass it will slay you as completely as it did me. Highway of Dreams is simply a must-have album.

 

 

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