Muireann Bradley - I Kept These Old Blues (2023)

Almost as often as aficionados of classical music do, blues fans are willing to listen to updated versions of ancient compositions originally written or recorded by the old masters. Perhaps this is because many of them were produced on old, scratchy, well-worn, 78 RPM records, so new, clean, high-fidelity interpretations are welcome.

One of the young talents resurrecting old blues is newcomer Muireann (pronounced "moor-un") Bradley from County Donegal, Ireland. This talented young lady just turned seventeen and recently released her twelve song debut album, I Kept These Old Blues, that was recorded over a three year period with just her voice and her very accomplished acoustic guitar work.

The teenager learned to love the blues from her father, John Bradley, who you could say is besotted with the music of the country-blues artists from as long as a hundred years ago. Muireann elaborated in her CD's liner notes, “My father would play this music constantly at home and wherever we went in the car and talk about it endlessly whether anyone was listening or not, telling stories about the lives of these musicians as if they were legend, mythology or the evening news.”

The seeds for Miss Bradley's album were planted during the Coronavirus pandemic's lockdown when she was looking for something to occupy her time. Because she couldn't participate in her beloved contact sports that supplanted the guitar as her first love she took her six-string playing seriously again and learned these old songs her father loved. When he determined Muireann was good enough to show off her talent to the world the venues featuring live music were locked up tight, so he suggested uploading her songs to YouTube. She took his advice, and her videos received thousands of views. Tompkins Square, a record label in San Francisco that specializes in historical releases and anthologies of gospel, blues and country sounds discovered her online and the rest is history.

Musically, Bradley is an excellent guitarist who needs no accompaniment. Her voice lacks any hint of having been raised on the Emerald Isle and it sounds like she could have been the daughter of a poor sharecropper who grew up in the American South. This is meant as a compliment.

Among the featured blues legends are Reverend Gary Davis ("Candyman"); Mississippi John Hurt ("Richland Woman Blues," "Stagolee," and "Frankie"); and Elizabeth Cotten ("Shake Sugaree" and "Freight Train"). 

There are two instrumentals, the traditional and superbly rendered "Vestapol" and "Buck Dancer's Choice" written by the late Grand Ole Opry member Sam McGee and arranged by John Fahey.

No one knows if the young, potentially future star will make another record or take her beloved jiu jitsu and boxing more seriously than her music. If she makes another album I'm one fan who will welcome her future artistic endeavors.

You can purchase the album on LP, CD, mp3 or cassette on Bradley's Bandcamp page or at Amazon.