Growing up the son of any legend can be a tough road to hoe for anyone. As they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” including their legends. Doyle Bramhall was indeed a larger than life legend in the Texas music community. From his time as a young man in his teens playing with Jimmie Vaughan in The Chessmen when they opened for Jimi Hendrix, to a lifetime of performing and writing with the legendary musicians of Texas, the senior Doyle Bramhall left a rich legacy when he left us in 2011. Not only was he a great drummer, he was also a premiere composer having written classics like “Dirty Pool,” and “Life By the Drop,” just to name a couple right off the bat.
Doyle Bramhall II has forged his own path. He has played guitar for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and in Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray’s distinctive rhythm section, drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon. He put out two very well received solo efforts, Jellycream in 1999, and Welcome in 2001. The latter garnered the attention of both Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. He would do several tours with Rogers, and later joined Eric Clapton for an extended period of writing, producing, and touring. He has also been in demand as a writer, producer and player in his own right.
It has been a long time since Bramhall has given us a solo album; 15 years in fact. On September 30th Concord Records will release the new album, Rich Man. Containing 13 engaging tracks, the new album has a running time of 73 minutes. The album is recorded and engineered extremely well, and the mix is deep, perfectly showcasing the incredible textural qualities of this music.
Bramhall has been doing a lot of traveling, gathering ideas and sounds from all around the world. Rich Man is a culmination of his journeys, both physically and spiritually, and all his traveling has served him well. The best part of this album is the amazing textures and sonic backdrops that Bramhall has sculpted.
There are several tracks here that we particularly enjoyed. The lead track, which is also the currently available single “Mama Can’t Help You” is a rockin’ funky delight with an intoxicating riff that grabs you straightaway. “November” is soulful, and full of body, with the horns lifting the entire piece up. “New Faith” features Nora Jones, whom Bramhall has toured with and whose work he admires deeply. This sonically astute track is soft and inviting while still retaining an edge, and the vocal harmonies are elegant indeed. The title track is exceptional, with guitars and strings weaving in and out of each other creating a haunting beauty all the way through, augmented with captivating backing vocals. “Harmony” begins with an intro of strings, with acoustic guitar entering like a ray of sunshine, elevating his vocals nicely. The album closes with the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Hear My Train Coming.” Bramhall’s articulation of this standard is heavy, heavy, heavy, and vaguely Robin Trower-esque, emanating from a pit of pain, the protagonist ready to “leave this town” and move on.
Rich Man is is generously filled with a multitude of aural pleasures and sonic landscapes that are full and vibrant. The playing is emotional and honest. Bramhall himself says, “I read a quote from Charles Mingus. He felt that he was not just playing a style of music so much as expressing the sounds of his life and experiences through the medium of music. I very much relate to that.”
We highly recommend Rich Man. It is a delicious treat for your senses to savor. Ease into a set of quality headphones, drop the needle or push play, and just be carried away by this music.