On Queen of the West, Bob Bradshaw’s fourth full-length release, Bradshaw present an interwoven series of songs that can be best described as cinematic in concept and delivery. Telling the story of Ruby Black – The Queen of the West – a gun-toting femme fatale, Bradshaw embraces heartache and humor in equal measure. Scoop McGuire, Andrew Stern, Andy Santospago, and Chad Manning contribute to the records sonic landscape with pedal-steel, fiddle, piano, bass, and drums topped with a twangy guitar. Duke Levine, James Rohr, Kris Delmhorst, Dave Westner, Annie Lynch, Britt Connors, Ed Lucie, and Mike Connors all make appearances as well. Bradshaw took on production duties while Dave Westner recorded and mixed the project at Wooly Mammoth Sound and Side Hill Studio in Waltham, Massachusetts. Character struggles with identity, loss, and redemption jump to the forefront from the first few notes of the record as a minor eeriness encapsulates the sonic landscape and Bradshaw sings, “Not for the cold evening breeze on my face, not for the silence that I come to this place, I’ve tracked her here, to the desert, the Queen of the West”. Bounty hunter or long lost lover, we know not which or why he tracks the Queen of the West.
On “Role of a Lifetime” we learn more, “they say the Queen of the West killed a dozen men, they say she wed a dozen more, they say she lead a cavalry charge in the Spanish-American war,” but mystery still abounds. “Ruby Black” sounds like it could have come straight from Joe Henry’s catalogue: minor inflected string arrangements, multiple movements, and pristine emotive vocals on full display. “1-800-SOSAINT” swings with an effortlessness reminiscent of Lyle Lovett’s take on Texas, while Child waltzes with the ache of loss.
“The glory days are now behind her, his sorry ass a cruel reminder, no one’s baskin’ in the afterglow,” Bradshaw sings on “Story Goes” embracing the hard life of the west and the grief that accompanies unfulfilled dreams. Albuquerque’s tex-mex flair sways as the narrator happily, “parked my Mustang here in Escondido, a sleepy, dusty, tranquil, border town”, but eventually he concludes, “that girl, well, she sure knows just how to work me, I must leave this sleepy, dusty, tranquil, border town” once things go further south.
Lounge act keyboards provide a soft bed for the sorrow of “How You Disappear” to fall upon, “it happens quick, your famous trick, you’re there then you’re not there”. Queen of the West closes on an uplifting note with “Your Song.” “I heard your song, above the roar, above the throng, head it soar, your song of hope, I heard your song,” Bradshaw sings to buoyant piano accompaniment. The record ends with a believer’s plea, “give me strength, that I might learn, their song of hope,” Bradshaw intones as the music swells to a triumphant conclusion. https://www.bobbradshaw.net