Dale Ann Bradley
A six-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award, Dale Ann Bradley is one of bluegrass music’s greatest contemporary singers, with a pure, shimmering soprano that brings alive the stories she sings. Though she has established a successful Nashville music career, she stays true to her Appalachian roots, with deft guitar picking, gospel-inspired harmonies, and “nothing doctored up” personal songwriting that bring listeners to the heart of bluegrass music.
Bradley was born in Pineville, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Her family resided, as she says, “in a backwoods holler,” where electricity and running water were inaccessible until she was a teenager. As the daughter of a Primitive Baptist minister, Bradley grew up with limited exposure to secular music, but cultivated her voice singing a cappella with her church congregation. When she got her first guitar at the age of 14, she says, “It was a little plywood, small body guitar, but it had six strings and I made a pick from a milk jug. Drove everybody crazy.” In high school she began performing locally with musical mentors in a band they called Back Porch Grass. After starting a family, Dale Ann returned to music in 1989 when she was invited to perform at the venerable Renfro Valley Barn Dance. She became a regular on the Saturday night barn dance as well as its sister radio show, Sunday Morning Gatherin’. At Renfro, she met and joined the New Coon Creek Girls, an all-women’s bluegrass ensemble inspired by the original Coon Creek Girls of the 1930s; she played with the group from 1991 until 1997.
Over the past 30 years, Bradley has built an international solo career, playing venues from the Grand Ole Opry to stages in Japan and Ireland, and has recorded with the likes of Pam Tillis and Alison Krauss. With 12 solo albums to her credit, Dale Ann received her first Grammy nomination for 2016’s Pocket Full of Keys; she received her second nomination with her all-female bluegrass supergroup Sister Sadie in 2019. (She left the group in December 2020 to focus on her solo career.) In 2018, Bradley was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
Bradley shows no sign of slowing down; in 2020, she released a duo album, Oh Darlin’, with former Sister Sadie bandmate Tina Adair. Her 12th solo album, Things She Couldn’t Get Over, came out in 2021, followed later that year by Bradley’s sixth win as Female Vocalist of the Year and a tie for Gospel Recording of the Year for the album’s “After While,” both at the 2021 IBMA Awards. Dale Ann wears her accolades humbly, but they’re every bit deserved. About her approach to bluegrass, she commented, “The kids today in bluegrass, it’s a wonderful energy, but it’s a different energy. And I think people my age might be the last of that generation that really lived those songs hardcore.”
Dale Ann will be joined in Salisbury by her stellar band: Kim Fox (guitar), Matt Leadbetter (dobro), Casey Freeland (bass), and Mike Sumner (banjo).