“Although this record has a few things that sound kinda country, I would not consider it a country album,” says Randall Bramblett of his latest effort, Rich Someday, released last week on New West Records. “We definitely don’t fit in with any genre I can think of [laughs].”
Bramblett, a native of Jesup, Ga., is a veteran multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who grew up hooked on the early rock ‘n’ roll and soul sounds of Elvis, Little Richard, the Muscle Shoals and Stax Records scenes, the grittiest acts of the British Invasion, and the folk music of his home state. In the middle of a rich musical career, already spanning over 30 years, he’s more than happy to be playing his own mix of American musical styles and notions.
“The reason we’re so all over the map on this stuff is because that’s the way the songs are written,” says the songwriter. “When I bring them in, that’s the way they are. You have to work with what you’ve got. On the new album, a song like ‘Beautiful Blur’ has an old-timey R&B flavor, while ‘Hate to See You Go’ or ‘Stupid Shoes,’ is just kinda dumb country. The influences that I have are reflected in the material I write. I feel pretty comfortable in all those styles. It’s like Dylan and soul music mixed all together. It does create some problems in marketing, because so many people can’t get a handle on what it is [laughs].”
After working with various bands in Macon and Atlanta, Bramblett settled in the idyllic university town of Athens in 1970 (10 years before the members of R.E.M. ever jammed at keg parties). He released a pair of albums on the Polydor label, That Other Mile and Light Of The Night, and continued to work as a session guy through the mid-’70s.
Bramblett did time with members of the Allman Brothers, touring with Gregg Allman on his first solo tour, working with former Allman Brothers members in Sea Level, and eventually joining tours with The Muscle Shoals All Stars, ex-Band drummer Levon Helm, Steve Winwood & Traffic, and many others.
Striking out on a renewed solo career in 1997, he signed with the now-defunct Capricorn label and released his longtime-coming third solo album, See Through Me. When the label went belly-up in 2001, Bramblett signed on with Americana label New West Records and issued No More Mr. Lucky, followed by 2004’s Thin Places.
The New West roster features more than a few so-called Americana bands and songwriters — from Vic Chesnutt, Billy Joe Shaver, and Kris Kristofferson to The Drams, Sarah Lee Guthrie, and The Drive-By Truckers. Bramblett’s new collection ties in well with the aesthetic the label has established in recent years, pulling a bit more from the vintage R&B and soul of the Motown and Stax Records heyday, with a few nods to Dylan and the early Beatles.
Rich Someday finds Bramblett at his most raw and loose, singing raspy lines through a trashy microphone, playing with a bit more distortion and room noise than on previous efforts. Drummer Gerry Hansen, electric guitarist Mike Hines, bassist Michael Steele, and longtime guitarist and songwriting collaborator Davis Causey sound as if they’ve been at it for years together, settling into a strong, tight, expressive sound.
“This new band has been together for two and a half years now,” Bramblett says. “It really does center around Gerry on drums. I love the idea of the drummer acting as the producer, too. I had done some sessions with him before and I finally gave him a call, at Davis’s request. Somehow, everybody got on board. Mike and Michael were doing session stuff [around Atlanta] and playing with country musicians, but they turned out to be fantastic. They’re really great singers and players and it really worked out.”
The current lineup played together off and on for about a year before they ever recorded. Bramblett went into Hansen’s well-equipped home studio in Lawrenceville (just a half-hour out of Atlanta) with the intentions of recording some demos and doing some preproduction for a possible session. They borrowed some mics and odd gear and figured out a way to give Bramblett’s voice some edge and the drum sound some spark. The sounds of the first sessions were so strong, he decided to record the entire new album there with Hansen at the mixing board acting as producer.
“It sounded really good and his ideas started coming out. He definitely wanted it to sound less studio-ish and more trashy — more of a full band kind of thing,” says Bramblett. “I didn’t realize he was going to be able to guide the thing the way he did. I just turned it over to him because his ideas matched up with how I wanted the songs to come across … or how I hadn’t even imagined that they’d come across. You know, we had the pleasure of not having to work with the clock ticking, you have to have the ideas and sounds to put it together.”
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