Originally published at The 9513 in March 2011. Gaskin’s only release to date is the digital Bradley Gaskin EP featuring this and three other songs. He was dropped by his label in 2012.
Sensing radio’s inborn prejudice against gray hair, Travis Tritt hires some kid from Alabama to be the face of his new music in a homegrown Milli Vanilli-style stunt. The details of this arrangement aren’t revealed until several months (or years!) later, by which time Tritt’s voice has become so firmly re-seated atop the country charts as to not be easily bumped by any piddling image concerns.
Farfetched, maybe, but you’ll half believe it hearing the debut single from Columbia Nashville’s Bradley Gaskin, whose small frame and clean-cut appearance belie a big, soulful country voice. The problem—if there is one—is that Gaskin’s voice might be too similar to Tritt’s, leaving him open to charges of imitation. As it happens, he’s even recording for the singer’s own former label.
The comparison is ultimately a flattering one. Travis Tritt is one hell of a singer, so even a convincing imitation would be no small feat. If more people could sing like this, they would. And if this is just naturally what Bradley Gaskin sounds like, all the better.
“Mr. Bartender” is a straightforward barroom lament that would have been at home on country radio in the ’90s, but sounds downright insurgent all these years later. Digging in his boot heels and wailing against a pure honky tonk arrangement, Gaskin pleads for liquid relief: “I’m counting on something to ease this pain I’ve got/Mister Bartender, take me out with one shot.” Two different kinds of shot, see? That’s about the height of the song’s cleverness, but good enough lyrics are elevated by a better vocal and bold stylistic moves all around, making this feel almost like a throwing down of the gauntlet: Will country stations play anything this dadgum country?
Surprisingly, early signs point to it being possible. Originally set to be released in May, the single was fast-tracked after Gaskin’s performance of it at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville set programmers buzzing. Now we’ll see if they have the fortitude to make it a hit.
(Afraid not. The song peaked at #32.)