I’ve been off the beer recently. Not ‘off’ as in having stopped drinking it, just ‘off’ as in not quite enjoying it as much as normal. In the post-Christmas lull an awful lot of people stop drinking, take to the gym to sweat the kilos of turkey, mince pies and festive booze out of their pores. Not me, my body is a temple – dusty and crumbling into disrepair. Sure, I have cut back a bit and I have been toying with the idea of a turbo trainer for the bike in the shed in an attempt to get fit for the 140 mile bike ride I have signed up for in April but I’ve not done anything drastic yet.
The main reason I’ve not been drinking as much is that I’ve been feeling jaded with beer. My normal wide-eyed zeal for it seems dulled. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps I overindulged at Christmas and my lack of interest is my brain telling me subconsciously to cut back. Perhaps it is that there isn’t any beer I want to drink. I don’t know. Everything I drink at the moment seems sloppy or lacking something. Confronted with a once enticing beer list, nothing appeals. Perhaps I’m just being a ponce.
Anyhow, as of last Friday I can announce I am firmly back in the game. I sat down with a friend and drank one of the best beers I have drunk in a long, long time. I don’t do beer reviews, because, well, if you want to know how something tastes, drink it yourself. Needless to say the bottle of Brooklyn Wild Streak we opened was really special. To accompany it, we watched a documentary ‘Soul of America’ about a guy called Charles Bradley. Kinda apt really, seeing as he lives in New York and gigs around clubs in Brooklyn.
For those of you who haven’t come across Charles Bradley before, he is a sixty six year old funk and soul singer from New York. His story is one of triumph against all odds. Abandoned by his mother aged eight months old, left to grow up with his grandmother, running away from home age fourteen, sleeping rough for two years, almost illiterate, training as a cook and working odd jobs and impersonating James Brown for forty years. He looks after his elderly, frail mother after his brother was shot and killed. Eventually Gabriel Roth, the co-founder of Daptone records, a retro funk and soul label based in New York saw one of Bradley’s ‘Black Velvet’ James Brown tribute nights and offered him the chance to record with the Daptone house band: The Menahan Street Band. They put together a record and released it.
What the documentary really highlights is Bradley’s never ending optimism, enthusiasm and childlike awe that everything, for once, is going his way. There is a particularly poignant moment where he is flyering for the album launch party at a small venue only to see a sign on the door that the show has sold out. He gets upset and suggests it should have been at a bigger venue. Not because that way he’d have made more money, but because perhaps some of the people that have helped him along the way might not be able to come and see his show. Despite all that the world has thrown at him, he still has an innocent soul.
Something about the combination of that documentary and that beer made everything in my brain click back into place. Stop being so cynical, just get on with it, is isn’t all that bad.
Needless to say, I’m big fan of Charles Bradley, and I urge you to have a listen to his record ‘No Time For Dreaming’
You can also watch ‘Soul of America’ here: