Bradley Hathaway’s “A Mouth Full of Dust”
“The bottom line is this: Bradley Hathaway has heart and some decent lyrics in his pocket, but he has yet to give either of them justice. And even the same could be said for his instrumentation and his vocals.” -Beth YeckleyBeth Yeckley
out of 10
A Mouth Full of Dust
January 9, 2010
If you’ve ever been to a poetry jam, you’ll recognize Bradley Hathaway’s music… or, I guess it would be more aptly called his “performance pieces.” Poetry can be emphatic, sometimes moving the audience with a surreal control over the wording, imagery, and intensity. Hathaway has all three of those things, minus the control. His music, if you would call it that, is at best, a marriage of miscommunication between his lyrics and his instrumentation.
On his second album, “A Mouth Full of Dust,” Hathaway is clearly in gear with his message. And I applaud that he has taken his faith and transcribed it into a novel of personal expression to God and about God. But I cannot entitle this to be good, sound music. The majority of the ten songs on the album read the same way: Hathaway’s voice spills out over the music and runs rampant, coloring outside the instrumentation’s rhythm and guidance. His voice has two qualities, being nasal and whiny. Most of us know that a nasal voice can be soulful, aggressive, and even a little whining can pull on your heart if paired with emotive lyrics and crisp music. But Hathaway’s album lacks all of those elements. And though I’m sure this was a desired quality, the static and incessant crying of his voice pushes him out of tune and even dropping flat on some notes. And it’s a sad song to sing, considering that some of his songs really have parts of them that are struggling for redemption. There are moments on the album that beg to be prolonged, like the last two minutes of “Samuel” or the jamming on “Lord Have Mercy.” But with lyrics so recklessly recorded over the music, it is without a doubt that he is playing a game of chubby bunny with himself, attempting to cram as many words into one line as possible. It’s as if he and the music are a team in an ankle race, but the music is flailing behind, being drug through the dirt. The only song that I actually enjoyed, truly, was “I Don’t Believe In Love.” I adored the guitar intro, mainly because it’s one of the few times we actually get to hear the music itself. And his voice sounds hollowed out, coupled with a little twang, but well measured over his strumming. He sounds soulful and it’s as if this song was made with thought, love, and precise craft. The music actually reverberates through the string of a tin can telephone, leaving a raw but finished feel to this song.
The bottom line is this: Bradley Hathaway has heart and some decent lyrics in his pocket, but he has yet to give either of them justice. And even the same could be said for his instrumentation and his vocals. Color inside the lines, Hathaway!