Charles Bradley: Soul of America Directed by Poull Brien Fri., June 22 at 10:30 p.m. Also on Sun., June 24 at 9:45 a.m. Both showings at Round House Theatre.

You could say Charles Bradley was tutored by the Godfather of Soul: For years Bradley impersonated James Brown in New York nightclubs, billed as “Black Velvet.” But the best soul music comes from a place of hardship and pain, and the gravel-voiced Bradley has seen plenty of both—he’s been homeless, nearly died of a penicillin allergy, and cared for his aging mother following his brother’s murder. At 62 years old, Bradley finally released his debut album of original material last year after being “discovered” by Daptone Records, the Brooklyn soul-revival label responsible for throwback acts like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Cue the appropriation gripes: Poull Brien’s film, Charles Bradley: Soul of America, never ponders its Cinderella scenario, in which an illiterate black singer is enabled to “make it” playing music in the style of Otis Redding and James Brown by a white-owned label, white producers, white co-writers, and a mostly white backing group. Patronizing? NPR-baiting? Probably, but then again, the classic soul labels all had in-house songsmiths and bands; the genre didn’t mine authenticity in the studio. It’s real because the feelings behind it are real—and Bradley’s gift is to make you shiver from what he’s experienced. No surprise, then, that the best moments in Soul of America are the concert scenes. I nearly lost it during a performance of “Lovin’ You, Baby” in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in which Bradley thanks new fans and old friends while his band plays a vamp that sounds like tears.

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