Charles Bradley, the archetypal late bloomer, surfaced a few years ago with one hell of a backstory. So good that he’s the subject of a documentary, “Charles Bradley: Soul of America,” which has been making the rounds at film festivals.
Bradley was a onetime James Brown impersonator whose hardships had taken him rambling across the country, working as a cook in Maine, living with his mother in Brooklyn, N.Y., and enduring the murder of his brother.
Then, in 2011 at the tender age of 62, Bradley released his debut album on Dunham Records, a subsidiary of the soul label Daptone. “No Time for Dreaming” explored the dark side of Bradley’s journey and introduced him to an audience raised on Sharon Jones and the like.
The subject matter on his sophomore album is love, and you can guess just how lucky Bradley has been, from the song titles alone: “Love Bug Blues,” “Crying in the Chapel,” “Through the Storm.”
Bradley is linked to Brown, his idol whom he first saw at the Apollo Theater in ’62, but as a vocalist he’s more aligned with Bettye LaVette. Each performance on “Victim of Love” is a musical exorcism from the gut, every note a wail through clenched teeth and closed eyes.
You hear him at the peak of his powers on the title track, whose acoustic soul reels in the band and lets Bradley tell his story, one wounded sentiment at a time. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Victim of Love”
Charles Bradley performs at Paradise Rock Club on May 18.