Possessing a smoky contralto, Eddie Ruth Bradford of Clarksdale, Mississippi, sounds like a cross between Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. Nicknamed “The Delta Breeze,” she has remained faithful to the traditional gospel music she has loved since she was a child.
Eddie was born to Frank and Ruthie Bradford in Cascilla, Mississippi. As a youngster, she sang with her family group, the Bradford Family, and dreamt of someday becoming a professional gospel singer. Setting the dream aside, Eddie earned a master’s degree at Delta State University and became a family nurse practitioner. To this day, she continues to pursue a co-career in public health, assisting residents of underserved communities.
In 2000, Bradford sang for the funeral of her grandmother, Charity Mae Dunn. Attendees were so moved by her singing that they encouraged her to become a professional vocalist. She submitted demos to record companies and heard back from Frederick Knight. Knight, an R&B singer and songwriter who produced Anita Ward’s No.1 disco hit, Ring My Bell, signed Bradford to his imprint, Juana, distributed by Malaco.
Juana released Bradford’s debut album, Too Close to the Mirror in 2003. The Billboard-charting album and its title track led to her first Stellar Award nomination for Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year, an appearance on BET”s Bobby Jones Gospel and a spot on TV One with singer-instrumentalist Jeff Majors. In 2004, she received a Jackie Award at the annual Jackson Music Awards in Jackson, Mississippi.
Saved By Grace (2006), Bradford’s second album for Juana, secured for her another Stellar Award nomination for Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year. The popular single, You Held On Even When I Let Go, came from this album.
After her Juana contract expired, Bradford organized her own label, Eddie Ruth Bradford Music, LLC. Her last three albums, Reflections (2009), Jesus Is Coming Back (2010) and Blessed to Be a Blessing (2013) were released on her own imprint. A fourth is due in 2017.
Over the years, Eddie Ruth Bradford has released a steady stream of singles. Besides Too Close to the Mirror and You Held On Even When I Let Go, her catalog includes Leak in This Old Building and Your Reflection in Me (2009), Jesus Is Coming Back (2010), No Not One and I’ll Go (2011), Blessed to Be a Blessing (2013) and Shine On Me and Gonna Tell the World About You (2014).
—Robert M. Marovich