Pete Feenstra chatted to Doyle Bramhall for his “Pete Feenstra Feature” show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. First broadcast 21 May 2017.
Doyle Bramhall II and his band have got things wrapped up tight. Bramhall is almost furtive in his approach to a London crowd that hang on every note. They wait patiently for any semblance of communication from their hero who contents himself with the merest glance at his co-guitarist Adam Minkoff to suggest, ‘wow, did we really do that’?’
Much like the blues guitarist Chris Duarte, Bramhall is the closest equivalent we have to a John Coltrane of the guitar. His undulating solos meander, weave and eventually come to rest on a sweet spot somewhere between the angular and the melodic.
Watching Doyle Bramhall II is like watching a chef at work. All the ingredients are there, but he uses a well routined band instead of attendant kitchen staff to make magical things happen.
Other times he’s a painter who judiciously colours his canvas with an array of tonal colours, applying the occasional thicker paint stroke here and a lighter touch there, to express himself with the subtlest tonal depth this side of Eric Johnson.
It’s the blues Carruthers, but not as we know it!
They say things are bigger in Texas, and in Bramhall’s case it’s all about exploring a big sonic landscape in a meeting of blues, spirituality and an inclusive philosophy. The latter reflects his own feelings which he shares in a musical driven emotional arc that connects the personal to the universal.
Bramhall aims for celestial bliss as he embraces enveloping spacey grooves, haunting tones, and deep grooves.
He demands patience, understanding and is not given to saying much, but when he sculpts his solos, his spiritual bent sounds so essential in such unsettling times.
He opens with the enveloping ‘Soul Shaker’ much of which is lost in an opening muddy mix that relegates his vocals to mime like proportions.
‘The Veil’ is quite opposite, being a concise piece of psychedelic soul underpinned by Ted Pecchio’s booming bass lines and drummer Anthony Coles’s fluidity. The song sets the template for a set that at its best comes close to unlikely 4 part Temptations style harmonies.
Things get even better on the gentle meandering drone of ‘My People’, which overcomes high volume levels to beguile us with an anthemic chorus and a message very much of our times.
Bramhall works up an introductory ethereal Eastern feel on ‘Hands Up’, alongside fellow guitarist Adam Minkoff who switches to organ and dominates the number as Doyle takes a breather.
And just when the set is in danger of overextending the jam quotient, Bramhall leads the band into the elemental ‘Mama Can’t Help You Now’ which puts the G into groove and the F into Funk, as Doyle adds a warm emotive vocal that connects with the crowd.
‘Rich Man’ is both soulful and meditative with potent 3 part band bv’s, as Doyle actually seems to relax and leans into the gentle wash of ‘New Faith’.
Everything comes together and then almost momentarily fall apart on the almost freeform ‘The Samaran’,
It’s subtle shaped by some deft band interplay as Bramhall’s cultured tone and warm voice almost languidly glues everything together, before the band veers into a sonic psychedelic feedback as Minkhoff celebrates the moment by joining the drummer behind the kit.
The lighting man works overtime and Bramhall’s celebratory smile suggests a cathartic release, as he earns a big reception from the crowd.
There’s still time to rock out on the encores, but the main bulk of the night’s work has already been done. Having spent most of his career honing other people’s music as a guitar playing producer, you can forgive Doyle his own occasional overbearing moments of tension building excess.
On the evidence of tonight, he’s in the vanguard of nouveau soul, and a musician who digs deep to uncover real emotion and express his own spirituality.
His band does him proud and together they captivate probably the only crowd in West London tonight not otherwise occupied by the cup final.
Earlier on, singer-songwriter Jon Allen draws in the crowd in with a mixture of catchy melodies, a husky voice and an endearing stage presence.
He short, sharp, succinct set is notable for well crafted songs such as the evocative ‘In Your Light’ and the emotive ‘Night & Day’. The latter sounds like early Rod Stewart as he subtly nuances lyrical feel. His strong material and an impressive set leads to warm applause and bodes well for a contemporary music scene big on singer-songwriters.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Anne Pioton
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)
COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
OF ALLIES Off The Map (indie)
EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Big Blue World (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REDLINE Gods & Monsters (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 WILDWOOD KIN (Silvertone/Sony)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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