Before CDs, before the Internet, soul music freaks had to rely on serendipity find the best dusty tracks: O.V. Wright's "Nickel and a Nail," Bunny Sigler's "Regina," Erma Franklin's "Piece of My Heart." I heard all of these for the first time on a little radio station, between the hatch marks on my dorm room FM radio, fine-tuning the dial enough to hear the announcer, writing down the info, and then heading off to my local dusty used record store, hoping to get lucky. Listening to Charles Bradley's No Time for Dreaming, reminds me of those musical dorm-room epiphanies. His voice is gritty as a gravel road, reminiscent of deep-soul men from Otis Clay to Joe Simon.
But Bradley is no forgotten soul great, though tracks such as "How Long" and "Golden Rule" could be lost Stax B-sides. Dreaming is a debut album purposefully recorded to sound as weathered as the singer's voice. Of course it's a Daptone record, those same soul-purists-with-hearts-of-gold who brought us the beloved Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. As with all of the artists in the Daptone catalogue, Bradley is backed by horn and rhythm sections that sound, literally, vintage. In this case, it's a new combo: the Menahan Street Band, led by guitarist/producer Thomas Brenneck, beautifully backing Bradley's stories of hard luck and regret. "Heartaches and Pain" is Dreaming's standout track. The true story of Bradley's brother's murder, it's disturbing in a way few of those "classic" soul records could ever dare to be.