|Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Arts & Entertainment : Friday, August 25, 2000
/ Tom Scanlon
Kellee Bradley plays to win
with her first album
"My mantra this last year," says Mill Creek's Kellee
Bradley, "has been 'Can't win if you don't play.' "
Actress-singer-mother Bradley invested money she earned acting
in an independent movie ("Leonard Cohen's Afterworld") and a Lottery
commercial into the production of her first album. She then hit the road
and the phones, playing as many shows and trying to get as much notice as
After performing in New York and a few other East Coast cities,
Bradley is back home and just as busy. She has shows at Capitol
Hill's Hopvine tonight (8 p.m., $3) and at Madison's Cafe in West Seattle
on Saturday (9 p.m., $6), and will perform at Portland's North By
Northwest festival at the end of September.
Bradley's music is as hard to pigeonhole as her heritage. She is a
little bit Irish, a little bit Native American, a little bit Spanish -
"Heinz 57," she says.
Her ethnic diversity is reflected in "The Season," an accomplished,
extraordinarily varied album, particularly for a debut effort. "The
Heartache Ends" is a spare, beautiful, piano-fueled introspection in the
vein of Carole King. "Too Deep" is an upbeat, electric-guitar-driven
number with Bradley's voice in rock ranges. On the sexy "1,000 Miles"
("His hands are brown and hard/but they're soft when we love") and the sad
"In a Big Way," the music is more twangy, and Bradley sounds
The title track, with a Mexican guitar sound, is the tale of a hired
hand and a rancher's daughter; the bilingual ballad is in the tradition of
Linda Ronstadt, one of Bradley's heroes. The last of the album's 11 songs
is "Bold Finian Men," an Irish traditional song, with Bradley's a cappella
sounding straight out of Dublin.
That last song is also the only one on "The Season" not written by
Bradley. As pretty as her voice is, as a writer she is not afraid
to get gritty. "That's How We Are," probably the best-written song on the
album, is the story of a dysfunctional family, told in mostly
Momma's writing letters to the government again
dressed up to go to the post office
She says Daddy was taken by a
I don't know but he hasn't phoned home
"At shows, people are always coming up to me, (saying) 'Are you OK?' "
Bradley says with a laugh. "I'm fine - that's not my mom."
Conversely, "In a Big Way" is quite autobiographical, exploring life in
an unnamed small town closely modeled after Junction City, Ore. One
teenager gets busted for a bank robbery, another rolls his car out on
Prairie Road and dies, girls hang out at the drugstore, hoping to get
kissed. "In a small town/things can happen in a big way."
These days, Bradley lives in small town-ish Mill Creek, with her
real-estate investor husband and their two children, Connor, 10, and
Mackenzie, 8. (Her kids play synthesizer and violin on "That's How We
A few years ago, Bradley hoped to make acting her career. She
had guest roles on "Northern Exposure," as the owner of a dog Janine
Turner thought might be her dead boyfriend reincarnated, and "Star Trek:
The Next Generation," as an Amazon warrior. After making a go of it in Los
Angeles, Bradley returned to the Northwest and decided to
concentrate on singing and songwriting.
"I still do it," she says of acting, "but it's in the background. Music
has been the most important thing in my life for the last four years."
The Crocodile Cafe has a big week in store, highlighted by an all-ages
show from the revered Idaho indie rock band Built to Spill on Saturday (6
Baltimore's SR-71 will play its modern rock/MTV hit "Right Now" and
other songs at a low-price, radio-sponsored show at the Croc on Tuesday
(9:30 p.m., $1.77).
Heavy rocking Nebula headlines at the Belltown club on Thursday (9:30
p.m., $7). Also on the bill that night is Brotherhood of the Electric,
featuring former Soundgarden bass thumper Ben Shepherd and Jack Endino,
who produced early Nirvana and many of the other great Seattle grunge
In the neighborhood
Sit & Spin, just a few blocks from the Crocodile, features two
Seattle veteran bands this weekend. The wonderfully inventive Diamond Fist
Werny - influenced by Middle Eastern sounds as well as progressive rock -
plays Sit & Spin on Friday, and the recently reunited Ottoman Bigwigs
play new wave-y rock on Saturday. Both shows start at 9:30 p.m., $6 cover.
Fast and folky
Ballard's Tractor Tavern has two big shows in the coming days.
Fastball plays the Tractor tonight (9:30, $10). The Austin pop-rock
trio likely will play "The Way" and "Fire Escape," both from the 1988
album "All the Pain Money Can Buy," as well as songs from "The Harsh Light
of Day," Fastball's soon-to-be-released album.
Folk rocker Matthew Ryan plays from his outstanding second album, "East
Autumn Grin," at the Tractor Tavern on Monday (8:30 p.m., $6). Ryan has
been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen
and, yes, Bob Dylan.
Even so, Ryan - a native of Pennsylvania currently living in Nashville
- has a style all his own. It should be a terrific show.
Tom Scanlon can be reached at 206-464-3891 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company