Bradleyboy Mac Arthur's songs are populated by characters who wake up in trains, find blood caked on their hands, sell their souls and search for truth. His bluesy stories are delivered with a growling, hollering energy and fleshed out with banjo, harmonica, bass drum, guitar and the occasional eerie whistle—all delivered by Mac Arthur himself. Listening to Salt Gun, the one-man band's newest, live-off-the- floor recording, you can almost smell the gasoline and whiskey and see the cigarette smoke hovering in the air. Mac Arthur enjoys the idea of his albums having a cinematic quality, in what he calls a "Quentin Tarantino meets David Lynch" kind of way.
Mac Arthur's homemade instruments, including a kick drum fashioned from an old suitcase and a cigar box guitar, are a distinct feature of his live show. "That's the way our forefathers did it. They didn't have the money for instruments, so they made them. I love the suitcase and cigar box for their visual simplicity and unmistakable sound," he says.
Mac Arthur, 50, makes his home in Orono, Ontario, a small town about an hour east of Toronto. An ex-member of The Drunken Ex-Boyfriends and Kent Boys, he's been a one-man band since 2005 and released six records on his own. Salt Gun came out in June, and is his first release with Awesome Music—a somewhat curious development for an artist influenced by Tom Waits and RL Burnside, considering that the EMI imprint is mostly known for electronic albums (Summer Hitz, Ultimate Hitz, Rock Party Anthems). However, when you couple distribution with Mac Arthur's win at the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search this summer, it means more people are hearing about Bradleyboy than ever before.
An ironworker by trade, Mac Arthur left his position 11 years ago to focus on his music, a choice that seems to work out just fine for him. "I started playing, networking, and set up my home studio," he says. "I was doing odd jobs locally and lived on less but I was living. I was life rich. I have taken the skill sets I've learned and made them a commodity on my terms."
Bradleyboy Mac Arthur w/ Elliot Brood, Friday, November 25, 10pm, The Seahorse Tavern, 1665 Argyle Street, $15/$20
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