Dale Ann Bradley had just come from the Compass Records studio in Nashville, Tennessee when I caught up with her by phone on a recent Friday afternoon.
The bluegrass and country vocalist had been recording her latest solo album, Somewhere South of Crazy, due for release later this summer.
This weekend, she’ll be travelling north of crazy for her third appearance at the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival – this time in collaboration with long-time friends Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper.
Bradley is originally from Kentucky, where she grew up with no electricity or running water. It was hard for an aspiring musician to get her hands on instruments, recorded music or TV, she recalls.
But not having everything handed to her gave Bradley the sensitivity to understand other people’s plights and she’s thankful for the life she’s had.
After living in Nashville for three years, she returned to her roots in Appalachian Mountain country – and she’s thrilled to be home again.
“It’s hard to get the mountains out of your system,” she says.
That home lies in Kentucky’s southeast corner, where her yard straddles the borders of Tennessee and Virginia.
There has got to be a song in that.
Bradley is a prolific artist, known primarily for bluegrass and country music – not surprising, since she lives so close to US 23, the road known as the Country Music Highway.
And while she has the flexibility to feel at home both melodically and lyrically in other musical genres, she always returns to her bluegrass roots.
That commitment garnered Bradley the International Bluegrass Music Award (IBMA) for Female Vocalist of the Year three years in a row – 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Along with four albums recorded with her once-upon-a-time band, the New Coon Creek Girls, she has seven solo albums to her credit so far.
The latest, Don’t Turn Your Back, includes marvelous bluegrass interpretations of such rock classics as Tom Petty’s “Don’t Back Down” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Over My Head”.
These covers book-end “Music City Queen”, one of her own compositions.
For the upcoming Somewhere South of Crazy, she is working with producer Alison Brown, a Grammy Award winner for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
A special guest on the album is Pam Tillis, whose own career has seen 30 of her songs make their way onto the Billboard country music charts, including the 1995 chart-topper, “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)”
Tillis and Bradley co-wrote the album’s title track.
Bradley’s collaboration with Michael Cleveland this weekend is far from their first. In fact, Cleveland played with her band for two years when he was just out high school, before going on to team up with Rhonda Vincent.
He later played with Bradley for four or five more years before starting Flamekeeper.
This time around, some of the Flamekeeper musicians aren’t able to make the Yukon trip, so two of Bradley’s regular players will be sitting in with her and Cleveland this weekend.
Music has taken Bradley to Japan, Ireland, and throughout the USA and Canada.
Bradley told me she’s looking forward to her third Yukon visit, and even though the festival won’t be held in view of the beautiful vistas of Haines Junction, she’s just happy to come back to the Yukon scenery in general.
“I certainly am looking forward to seeing some of the familiar faces as well as new faces … and we’ll be ready to have some good times,” she promises.
The Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival runs June 10–12 at the Yukon Arts Centre.
You can find out more about Dale Ann Bradley and her music from her website www.daleann.com/
For festival information visit www.yukonbluegrass.com