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Randall Bramblett
Thin Places

Review By Steven Stone
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Randall Bramblett Thin Places

CD Number: New West Records NW 6050 

 

  The New West label has a remarkable knack for putting out arresting releases with original musical voices. For many years Randall Bramblett has made a living as a sideman, playing keyboards, sax, and background vocals for the likes of Gregg Allman, Sea Level, Widespread Panic, Levon Helm, and Stevie Winwood. His second release for New West, Thin Places, proves Bramblett can write songs that equal anything written by anyone, anytime. His vocal delivery and arrangement show a level of musical maturity found only in a select few popular musicians.

What makes Randall Bramblett so special? Every time I hear Thin Places I'm struck by his amazing combination of infectious melodies, insightful and personal lyrics, and tight arrangements. Every song comes across like a rare gem set in a perfect piece of jewelry. Trying to fit Bramblett's music into a particular genre presents a daunting challenge. Adult rock? Too limiting. Roots rock? It's far more sophisticated than that. Singer-Songwriter? The music has too much energy for this category. No, the best description I can come up with is to call it "killer contemporary."

Five of the songs on Thin Places are co-written by guitarist Jason Slatton. Other members of Bramblett's band include producer Michael Rhodes on bass, Davis Causey and Kenny Greenberg on electric guitars, Shawn Pelton on drums, and Ashley Cleveland on backing vocals. Randall Bramblett handles all the lead vocals, Hammond B-3 organ, piano, saxophone, and harmonium.

The musical arrangements on Thin Places deserve some attention. Every song has a unique structure and shape. None just start and stop. They all have subtlety evolving orchestrations, with instruments drifting to the front of the mix and then receding into the musical texture. All this musical intricacy would be lost if the recording and mixing were not first rate. Engineer Dave Sinko, assistant engineer Joshua Muncy, and mastering engineer Ken Love have created a sonic masterpiece that easily rivals the best pop recordings I've ever heard. The Beatlesque "Are You Satisfied" creates a wall of sound so beautiful that it would make Phil Spector turn in all his guns. "Chet Baker" features a perfectly articulated lyrical bass line recorded so it functions as lead instrument rather than merely a bass fundamental. The piece de resistance has to be the final cut "I Don't Care" which has a brooding yet anthemic sonic quality that makes merely living into a supremely heroic act.

If you don't give this disc a spin you are missing out on something very special.

 

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