Album Reviews

Randall Bramblett

Juke Joint At The Edge Of The World

Artist:     Randall Bramblett

Album:     Juke Joint At The Edge Of The World

Label:     New West

Release Date:     07/07/2017

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Why have top artists ranging from Chuck Leavell and his 1970s Allman Brothers offshoot, Sea Level, to Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood, Gov’t Mule, and Widespread Panic all called on Randall Bramblett for his songs and performance chops? Simple. Bramblett’s been a one-of-a-kind songwriter, singer, and player for over 40 years.

Inspired by their dazzling shows together, Bramblett decided to focus on his skintight touring band (guitarist Nick Johnson, bassist Michael C. Steele, and drummer Seth Hendershot) for the album. That decision resulted in ten songs projecting a flow of hot spontaneity and spellbinding variety. Longstanding Sea Level guitar mate Davis Causey dropped in to play his ass off on half of it, and Bramblett’s son, Isaac, sings background. Horn players add pizazz in just the right spots.

Juke Joint At The Edge Of The World—Bramblett’s 11th gift from the studio—contains artistry that absolutely astounds. The title refers to the out-of-the-way places the band plays, where people can’t help but shiver and shake to their rhythms and ways. The excitement begins with “Plan B,” an off-kilter, catchy-as-flypaper-in-a-swamp melody behind a song that celebrates not giving a shit too much. Plan B? Why have one? The way Bramblett sings it, in a cool voice of sandy silk and abstract candor, you find yourself rethinking your own damn plan.

Nick Johnson plays guitar in psychedelic swirls around strange keys. A serious, steady beat by bassist Michael C. Steele and drummer Seth Hendershot propels it. “Pot Hole On Main Street,” next, grooves with uninhibited soul about strength in the face of hardship, the humor in it shining by keen metaphor. A rolling beat, molten sax, and flower child guitar accentuates the acid-wonderful “Trippy Little Thing,” and then “Garbage Man” jazzes the place right up. Its funky New Orleans walkin’ vibe emphasizes the contrast among the races that Bramblett—and all of us of a similar age—remembers from the old days. We thought things were bad back then?

The only one Bramblett didn’t write arrives with a “Devil’s Haircut,”   though it has extraordinary musical mastery right out of his playbook. Bopping to absurdity just comes with the Randall Bramblett territory.

—Tom Clarke

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