Scott B. Sympathy

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Rather like Willie P. Bennett or Fred Eaglesmith, Toronto's Scott Bradshaw (better known as Scott B. Sympathy) is a profoundly observational singer/songwriter whose unique mixture of country, folk, and…
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Rather like Willie P. Bennett or Fred Eaglesmith, Toronto's Scott Bradshaw (better known as Scott B. Sympathy) is a profoundly observational singer/songwriter whose unique mixture of country, folk, and rock influences have made him a critically acclaimed cult figure in Canada (and especially in Southern Ontario); but he is unaccountably almost unknown everywhere else. Deeply influenced by Neil Young, but also informed by the sounds of Queen West colleagues such as Cowboy Junkies or Blue Rodeo, Scott B. Sympathy is a treasure awaiting discovery by those who like their folk-rock to fall a little more heavily on the rock end of the spectrum.

At the very beginning of his career, however, Bradshaw was more apt to be labelled a straight folkie; when he began gigging in the mid-'80s, he billed himself as Scott B. and played mostly solo acoustic shows. As time went by, though, Bradshaw slowly began playing more rock-oriented full-band dates, adding bracing helpings of Crazy Horse-inspired musical backbone to his coolly-observed lyrical musings. These dates were credited to Scott B. Sympathy, a moniker that, like Jimi Hendrix Experience or Bob Seger System, was designed to showcase the leader's name while giving notice that other players were also involved. (The name Sympathy, incidentally, was chosen to denote that the backing band would be playing "in sympathy" with Scott B.) Unfortunately, most people assumed that Scott B. Sympathy was the full name of the frontman, not the band, and despite numerous attempts to clarify the situation over the years, it stuck. Bradshaw continued to write under his real name, but Scott B. Sympathy ended up being the name he usually used when performing or recording (though for years, solo acoustic shows were still credited simply to Scott B.).

After building up a fervent local following though constant club dates, the first Scott B. Sympathy record, Neil Yonge Street, was released independently on Bradshaw's Smokeshow label in 1990. Drinking With the Poet (also on Smokeshow) followed in 1992. Both these albums received critical praise from reviewers throughout Canada, but failed to make much impact outside of college radio. Still, the gigs continued, and by the mid-'90s, Bradshaw had managed to assemble a permanent Sympathy backing band of Gary Robertson (guitar), Ron Bock (bass, backing vocals), and David O'Sullivan (drums). This outfit was rechristened simply the Sympathy (with Scott B. as one of the band's four members), and they independently recorded Long Way Down (1996), which was picked up for distribution by True North/MCA. Upon its release, Long Way Down was met with the most enthusiastic critical response for a Bradshaw record yet, but a sudden decision by True North to pare itself of all artists except Bruce Cockburn doomed it to retail oblivion. Shortly thereafter, Bock and O'Sullivan quit the Sympathy to form the Monarch Brothers, and Bradshaw returned to using the Scott B. Sympathy name. Unfinished Sympathy, featuring contributions from Robertson, Ashley MacIsaac, Oh Susanna, and Blue Rodeo's Basil Donovan, subsequently came out under the Scott B. Sympathy banner in 1999.