The Grand Rapids harp player and singer’s latest album basked in the spotlight for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by Billy Strings, Josh Rose, Jair, 84 Tigers, Nathan Walton and more.
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Bruce Madden readily admits “the music bug goes way back on both sides of the family.”
Born in Arkansas, Madden was surrounded by music, with a trumpet-playing father, swing-loving mother, piano-thumping grandfathers and various relatives who played drums, trombone and other instruments.
“Rock ’n’ roll was busy being born,” says Madden, now 68, “but my older brother Albie like rhythm and blues, so I received an early education on a variety of early rock and R&B artists.”
For Madden – who took up harmonica and guitar – the “raw” sound of those seminal performers continues to inspire him, a sonic quality that propels his latest studio album, “Trouble Times,” recorded at Grand Rapids’ all-analog Goon Lagoon.
He cites the likes of Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Ornette Coleman, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Jimi Hendrix as influences, a mélange of styles that surfaces at various junctures in his own music.
His well-traveled background has played a role, too, growing up in the South, attending school in Virginia and Massachusetts, and moving to France for a few years before eventually settling in Michigan where he played with the Jimmie Stagger Band and formed The T-Bones in the late 1980s.
In addition to releasing a studio album, that band – featuring guitarist Chris Baird, drummer Scott Brightup and bassist Fitz Green – opened for touring acts such as B.B. King, Robin Trower, Johnny Winter and Dave Alvin.
Madden would go on to release solo albums, including 2020’s “Through the Amp” featuring older blues covers that earned widespread attention nationally among blues devotees.
For his latest recording, Madden was joined at Goon Lagoon by Brightup and bassist Dale Dryer, with Madden supplying vocals, harmonica, Claviola, Hammond organ and “feedback guitar.” Saxophonist Lafayette Gunter, penny whistle player Emily Green, trombonist Ryan Limbeck and guitarist/organist Dick Chiclet enhanced several tracks.
Madden says “getting the sound down was paramount,” with parts of the new album exuding “almost a T-Bones feel,” while others boast “a more indie-rock” flavor. This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE showcased the title track and “Trap Time.” Scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show podcast.
‘A POWER OF THE WORD’ GUY ALREADY AT WORK ON NEXT ALBUM
“There really isn’t a theme, although the album title, ‘Trouble Times,’ does seem to reflect a period we are all going to have to grapple with here in the U.S.A., but really, around the world,” Madden says.
“The new songs are also very lyric-driven. I am definitely a ‘power of the word’ rather than the ‘power of the sword’ kind of guy.”
Madden penned 15 songs for the new album, which was released in late October, and he’s already at work on the next batch. He notes that he’s been “a little gun shy” about live performances since the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve all suffered from that virus, but creative people have really felt the brunt,” he says. “A lot of musicians tell me the world of music has changed – changed in a negative way for many. So, looking to the future, I’m writing songs for the next album.”
In addition to spotlighting Madden’s new music, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which focuses on local and regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — featured new tracks by Billy Strings (with Terry Barber), Nathan Walton & The Remedy, The Good Old Days, Josh Rose, Jair, Grace Theisen, The B-Sides, Ficus, 84 Tigers, Cole Hansen, The Accidentals with Kaboom Collective and Djangophonique. Listen to the full radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (11/4/22)
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