Sharkweek’s Kip Bradley goes solo with the the gorgeous Hunky Diamond
One of the great rewards of being in a successful band is that the combination of talents and influence produce a result no single band member could have anticipated. To put it another way, when you have the right players in a group, the sound of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When that happens, it may not be magic, but it’s close enough to call it that.
On the other hand, every member of a group must, on some level, acquiesce to the overall direction of the group (that’s the first rule of being in a group, after all).
Sometimes though, a single player has a need to express some ideas that may be outside the range of what the group is meant to be, and that’s where the solo album comes in to play.
Kip Bradley is the frontman for Sharkweek, one of the first bands I ever wrote about for The Pulse and still one of the top ten bands in the area in my estimation. This Friday, July 17, Kip is releasing his solo album Hunky Diamond at the Camp House.
As Bradley explained to Voices of Chattanooga: “SharkWeek has become a very collaborate effort, which is great and we love doing that. At the same time I just naturally gravitate toward writing songs. I started writing all these songs that were kind of in a different vein, and I wanted my own personal outlet, something I could control 100 percent.”
Solo albums can be a tricky business, however. Sometimes it’s a matter of pure self-indulgence that doesn’t serve the listener very well, other times it becomes apparent that a musician who thrives in a group might not have the legs to stand alone. Fortunately there is no such worry in Bradley’s work. Hunky Diamond is a gorgeous album and Kip is as powerful solo as he is in Sharkweek, albeit in a very different way.
“Split Wide” is the opening track of the album, and well chosen, I think. The bright, peppy guitar part hearkens back to Paul Simon’s Graceland while Bradley’s vocals are…well, they’re hard to pin down. He sounds like he could either be a dusty cowboy poet or the lead singer for some of the best alt-bands of the ’90s. On an album full of great tunes, this one is my personal favorite. It’s just damn infectious.
The haunting harmonica of the title track, “Hunky Diamond,” reinforces the controlled tremolo of Bradley’s voice which, in this case, has more than a touch of Jeff Buckley. “Clementine,” on the other hand, is a tune wherein he lets his twang-flag fly, going full Jagger circa “The Girl with the Faraway Eyes.”
I’ve never liked pigeonholing albums, and the truth is, that’s harder and harder to do these days as more artists become bolder (and more skilled) at combining various elements in their music. The country roots of this LP are strong, but not so strong that I’d call it a country album. The dulcet guitar is, again, very ’90s alt (which is nice) and the songwriting itself? The songwriting is the greatest strength of an already strong album.
The lyrics are direct, the narrative sincere, and the truth is that the writing could be any genre you like, depending on the instrumental hat you hang on it.
A solo album can go a lot of ways. Fortunately, this one is going to the top. Get your copy of Kip Bradley’s Hunky Diamond on beautiful translucent red vinyl this Friday night at the Camp House (or pre-order now via Kip’s Bandcamp page at kipbradley.bandcamp.com).