There are many ways to get exposed to new music and hopefully this column has been one of them for you. Though my material comes via listening to SiriusXM, reading email blasts, buying LPs, and attending concerts, the special ones are from chance meetings. It was a hot afternoon in Nashville in 2012 during Americanarama at Grimey’s when I shared some shade with the lovely Bonnie Bishop. Little did I know that one of her songs, “Not ‘Cause I Wanted To” was recently recorded by Bonnie Raitt for Slipstream which eventually garnered both artists a GRAMMY and put the young Austin, Texas songwriter on the map. She talked, and I listened, as she described the long recovery from a divorce, waiting to be uplifted before writing again, and finally finding the spiritual freedom to pen “good recovery” songs on Bishop’s upcoming release titled Free that was self-produced. She ran to her car and brought me the CD along with a single that was encased in a hand drawn original artwork sleeve. I was touched by her kindness and the album was highlighted in my story NEW MUSIC … and the rest of the Nashville journey.
After spending over thirteen years on the road and performing, Bishop took a break in 2015 to launch “Story & Song,” storytelling experience that marries Bishop’s songwriting with a narrated video as a way to refresh herself. This earned her an invitation to the prestigious MFA Creative Writing program at Sewanee University of the South where she is now working towards her Master’s degree in Non-Fiction writing and developing a screenplay. Besides her project, she continued to have her songs heard, most notably “Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts” sung by Connie Britton on the hit series Nashville and “Undone” covered by Raitt on the recent release Dig Deep.
Her self-described life journey of letting go continues with a brand new album titled Ain’t Who I Was on Nashville’s Thirty Tigers (RED) label. This time, acclaimed GRAMMY award producer Dave Cobb who previously worked with Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, and Jamey Johnson was onboard and my expectations were high that Bishop would deliver a break through record. Cobb told her she should be singing soul, not country, and that he wanted to record a soul album with the right artist. Bishop put her faith and trust in Cobb as he picked eight songs from her list of 36, including six she co-wrote, and they found two more to record to fill out the album. Bishop had a deep story to tell and together they made a record telling a story of transformation from longing, to loss and loneliness, and finally resurrection.
Oh baby, Bishop shines with her sultry rich raspy voice on ten gorgeous heartfelt tracks of redemption and healing. From the opening cut “Mercy” the players Leroy Powell (guitar), Jimmy Wallace (keyboards), Brian Allen (bass), and Chris Powell (drums) on this soul driven album recored at Low Country Sound. Highlights include “Broken”, “Poor Man’s Melody” and the big closing number “You Will Be Loved” were co-written with Wallace. The singles to sample are “Too Late” co-written with Ford Thurston, “Be With You” written by Tim Krekel and Stapleton, and Bishop’s version of “Not Cause I Wanted To” co-written with NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson.
Bishop’s perseverance and dreams may have finally reached land of milk and honey with the release of Ain’t Who I Was as audiophiles and music lovers should finally have this lovely soul on their radar. Her time is now.