Album Reviews

Doyle Bramhall II

Rich Man

Artist:     Doyle Bramhall II

Album:     Rich Man

Label:     Concord Music Group

Release Date:     09/30/2016


The sounds of Rich Man wash away nearly all traces of Texas from the Texan behind it. Nearly. What seems like a creaky old bluesman at the outset of “Mama Can’t Help You,” is actually a snippet of the great rhythm and blues drummer, James Gadsen, offering a stern caveat. His words rightly launch the opening rootsy shaker into a groove about stopping all the nonsense and living up to duty and honor. Imperceptibly, the shades do change on Doyle Bramhall II’s fourth solo album, and first in ten years. “November” takes its cue from serious old R&B, the horns pumping as Bramhall lovingly recounts the times he had with his dad. The senior Doyle played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins, and in the early bands of both Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Number II entered the musical world similarly, through Jimmie’s Fabulous Thunderbirds, and then upon the death of Stevie Ray, the Arc Angels, the first super band the surviving Double Trouble rhythm section put together. Albeit elusively, all that experience exists behind “The Veil,” which really begins the evolution of sound here. Faked charisma gets addressed in a tip-toeing, and then tense rocker that winds up in a funk. “My People,” one very heavy-duty but incredibly likable discourse urging that the people of the world need to come together, features Indian sarangi master Ustad Surjeet Singh lightly stoking the proceedings, and Bramhall setting them afire with ripping, roiling guitar. Bramhall plays left-handed, with the guitar flipped backwards and strung for a righty. His distinctive talent attracted none other than Eric Clapton, with whom Bramhall played for over a decade. Here, he perfectly encapsulates urban gravity and pointed rage in “Hands Up,” and intoxicating emulation in a spacey drift through Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train A Comin’.” Bramhall can quite evidently write—he had a hand in every song otherwise—and sing very convincingly. He wraps a fairytale quality around “New Faith,” and an absolutely ideally-modernized Stax sheath over the soul of “Keep You Dreamin’.” Better to hear Bramhall’s train a comin’, but it’ll absolutely run you over, no matter.

-Tom Clarke

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