Monday, April 22, 2013

Randall Bramblett: “The Bright Spots” (2013) CD Review

Randall Bramblett might be best known for his work with Gregg Allman and Elvin Bishop (among others), and for his songwriting (his tunes have been covered by Hot Tuna, B.J. Thomas and Bonnie Raitt).  However, he put out two solo albums in the 1970s (That Other Mile and Light Of The Night). Then in the late 1990s he resumed his solo recording career. His new album, The Bright Spots, features all original material, and these songs show what a damned good songwriter he is. Randall Bramblett plays several instruments, including keyboards, saxophone and guitar, and is a powerful force vocally. But often it’s the lyrics that really make love these songs. My favorites are “My Darling One,” “Shine” and “Detox Bracelet.” This is an album I appreciate more each time I listen to it.

The Bright Spots opens with “Roll,” a song with a great raw, bluesy energy, and with nice touches on horns. The backing vocals add to the song’s power. The CD’s title comes from this song’s lines, “Lizard in a whirlwind/Monkey in a trash bin/And that’s just the bright spots.” This song has a lot of cool lyrics, and I like this line: “Everybody wants you, nobody needs you when they really get to know you.” There is sometimes an urgency to the vocal delivery, and there is also a good little jam toward the end of the song.

There are splashing sound effects, and the sounds of laughter at beginning of “Every Saint.” I generally don’t like effects in songs, but Randall makes it work, incorporating it into the structure. This song starts off slow, quiet, easy, and quickly finds a good groove (but you get the sense of something difficult lurking just below the surface). The title line is, “Every saint is an accident/A wild shot in the dark.”  Great line, right? And check out these lyrics: “Well, I’m on a crooked highway/No map, no history/I’m going to keep on wandering ‘til I find you next to me/Well, I got lost and broken somewhere in the night.” “Every Saint” was written by Randall Bramblett and Jason Slatton.

The chorus of “’Til The Party’s All Gone” feels like a hit song: “Do what you want to do/Anything you say is true/Who’s going to tell you if you’re wrong, you’re wrong/Go where you want to go/Anyway, it’s your show/You’re going to party ‘til the party’s all gone.” There certainly are some pop sensibilities at work – check out the “doo doo doo” section. But it’s the cool instrumental section immediately following it that I love most. (The sound of the guitar at times reminds me just a bit of Los Lobos’ “Dream In Blue” from Kiko.)

I love the feel of “My Darling One.” It’s a pretty tune, with a hint of sadness in Randall’s voice as he sings lines like “The day is burning down/Just another candle going out.”   This is one of my favorites. I’m really fond of Randall’s work on keyboards on this song. There is also some nice work by David Causey on slide guitar. And of course there are some wonderful lyrics, like these lines: “Never seeing the cracks in the world/You dance so fast, the lines start to blur.” “My Darling One” was written by Randall Bramblett and Jason Slatton.

“Whatever That Is” is an unusual blues song. It has a great rough quality, both in the vocals and in the music. There is also a certain humor to this tune. Early on, Randall sings, “And I’m living in reality now/Whatever that is/They say everything has got a time and a season/Your love ain’t got no rhyme or reason/And I’m coming back down to earth/Wherever that is.” I totally love those lines. The music of this one is seriously cool; I like the groove on keys by Randall, and also the percussion by Gerry Hansen. At one point the guitar suddenly comes on strong, with a nice lead. That’s Tom Bukovac on guitar.

“Shine” is a sometimes gorgeous song that really reaches out to anyone having troubles or feeling lost or lonely. Randall asks in the song’s opening lines, “What do you do when you run out of things to say and the world will not cooperate?” The answer comes, “Do your best and kiss the rest goodbye.” The backing vocals on “Shine, shine, shine” add a lot of power to the song, as they work to make you feel less alone, almost like they’re cheering you on, helping you over the next hurdle. Wonderful. This is one of my favorite tracks.

It’s interesting how a single detail or line can sometimes get to you, rip you apart. Early on in “Detox Bracelet” Randall sings, “You were standing in the sun/With your detox bracelet round your arm/Your beautiful arm.” And it’s that kind addition of “Your beautiful arm” that nearly breaks me. Just that detail, the way love can be expressed, the way it’s sometimes shown. That expression of love is unexpected. He repeats those lines at the end of the song. And check out these lines: “Want to hear your laugh again/Want to see your smile, your lopsided grin/We almost killed you with our love and kindness.”

“All Is Well” a slow late-night jazzy tune with nice touches on keys by Randall. I also appreciate these lines: “I lost my keys to the future/I lost my hold on the past/I’ve got to give up on my predictions/All is well.”

CD Track List

  1. Roll
  2. Every Saint
  3. ‘Til The Party’s All Gone
  4. My Darling One
  5. Whatever That Is
  6. John The Baptist
  7. Shine
  8. Trying To Steal A Minute
  9. Detox Bracelet
  10. You Bring Me Down
  11. All Is Well
  12. Rumbling Bridge

The Bright Spots is scheduled to be released on May 14, 2013 on New West Records.

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