Over the years Doyle Bramhall II has established himself as one of the most in-demand guitarists in the business.
Bramhall’s list of colleagues, bandmates and musical counterparts acts as a who’s who of the music world and features legends such as Roger Waters, T-Bone Burnett, Elton John, Greg Allman, Allen Toussaint, and Eric Clapton, to name but a few.
Being such a sought-after artist and producer, meant that there was an almost 15-year gap between Welcome and his 2016 album Rich Man. However, the US-based singer, songwriter and guitarist is now in somewhat of a creative recording period in his solo career as he prepares to release his second solo album inside of 2 years this week.
For this record, Doyle Bramhall II has recruited a whole host of his esteemed colleagues and friends including bassist Chris Bruce, multi-instrumentalist and string arranger Adam Minkoff, and drummers Carla Azar and Abe Rounds as well as a number of musical guests.
The album opens with the mellow, soulful sounds of “Love and Pain”. With this poignant and topical number, Bramhall tackles the subject of gun violence in the light of last year’s tragic events in Las Vegas. The track features some passionate guitar playing in the latter stages of the number with some searing, fuzz fuelled guitar riffs.
With its infectious groove, catchy hooks, joyous backing vocals and vintage guitar licks “Hammer Ring” is one of the many stand out tracks featured on Shades. Likewise, with its driving rhythm, blues rocker “Live Forever” featuring The Greyhounds hits a similar spot.
Of course, Bramhall has spent over a decade as the right-hand man to ‘Slowhand’ himself. It goes without saying that Eric Clapton features on the record during the soulful R&B number “Everything You Need”.
Shades covers an eclectic mix of musical sounds and styles. Tracks such as the piano accompanied “Break Apart To Mend” stands out as being a bit different. This song truly showcases Bramhall as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, with only minimal guitar parts featuring until the latter stages of the song.
Much in the same vein, Bramhall and Norah Jones take Shades in a similar direction with the spellbinding ballad “Searching For Love”. This being a song which eases in the listener with its gentle piano introduction, heartfelt lyrics, slow blues licks and beautiful vocal harmonies.
On the other hand, the retro psychedelic sounds permeate their way through Shades in the shape of the infectious groove of “The Night” and The Beatles tinged “Consciousness”.
Shades comes to a close with Bramhall’s collaboration with blues superstars the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Collectively these vastly talented artists come together to deliver their astonishing take on Bob Dylan’s “Going Going Gone”. With huge soul-stirring vocal harmonies surrounded by a number of magical guitar conversations between Bramhall and Derek Trucks, it truly doesn’t get any better than this.
Shades by Doyle Bramhall II is the perfect example of contemporary blues at it’s best. DBII’s latest offering will be released via Mascot Label Group on Friday 5th October.
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen