"I've been singing ever since I can remember," says Dale Ann Bradley,
and, as with everything she says, she is quite in earnest. Described by Music
Row magazine as a "gentle mountain songbird with a shimmering delivery,"
Dale Ann has been making a name for herself within bluegrass circles and beyond
since 1992, but she has been singing forever. She is most definitely a mountain
songbird, born and raised in the small Eastern Kentucky town of Pineville, where
she first sang in a Primitive Baptist church and at school contests. But Dale
Ann is more quietly determined than gentle, her pure, sweet vocals backed by
the force it takes to propel a small-town girl from her humble beginnings to
the national respect and acclaim she and the band Coon Creek now hold. After
two highly successful recordings, "East Kentucky Morning" and "Old
Southern Porches", the new release, "Cumberland River Dreams,"
only further emphasizes their determination to keep moving forward.
In 1992 the guitar and lead vocal position opened in the New Coon Creek Girls,
and Dale Ann was the woman for the job. "I was hungry for an acoustic sound,"
she says. The New Coon Creek girls made four albums with Dale Ann as a member
before they dissolved. In 1997 Dale Ann and Vicki Simmons formed a new band,
Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek, and released "East Kentucky Morning,"
which was enthusiastically received by critics and fans alike, even being included
on a Billboard editor's best-of-the-year list. Dale Ann was finally joining
the ranks of her heroes.
Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek became popular not only within bluegrass circles
but beyond in part because of their wide range, including covers of pop songs
such as U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and the
1970's hit, "Stuck in the Middle With You" on their recordings. People
are moved as well by the endearing power and graceful lilt of Dale Ann's mesmerizing
voice. But perhaps one of their most important contributions as a group has
been the strength and originality of Vicki Simmons and Dale Ann as a songwriting
team. Their collaboration started, Dale Ann says, while they were putting together
"East Kentucky Morning". "I came to Vicki one day with a song
I'd started but couldn't finish, and she pulled out a song she'd been working
on," Dale-Ann recounts.
Together, the two women have written an array of powerful songs that often
tell the stories of the struggles of women. In "Granny Cat," a cut
from their new recording with Doobie Shea, Dale Ann sings the story of Vicki's
great-great-grandmother who fled across the mountains with her baby to escape
an abusive husband. The song ends with the admonition, "So all the women
out there today who think you have no other way than live with a man who treats
you like that, pack up and leave him like my Granny Cat." "A woman's
point of view probably has been missing from bluegrass," Dale Ann says,
but we didn't set out to put that theme in there or make a statement."
Instead, she says simply, "we feel moved to write real things that happen
to real people. We write what's in our hearts and hope it goes where it's needed."