this year I caught Steve
Winwood and band at the Bowery
Ballroom and the only thing more impressive than Little Stevie’s timelessness
and energy was his right-hand man in the group: Randall
Bramblett. The guy was a fireball of musicianship blasting crowd-capturing
sax solos over classic Traffic tunes, taking his seat at the organ when Steve
got up to play guitar on multiple occasions, and holding his own with the microphone
on the backup vocals. The performance was a nice summation of Bramblett’s career
as far as I knew it: from Sea Level way back when to helping hold down the fort
for Widespread Panic
and all the legends in between, he’s played with them all like a journeyman
utility ball player. Who knew he had a musical voice of his own?
Well, he does, and it’s a damn fine one at that. Leaving the saxophone and his sometimes too-sweet solos at home, Bramblett has produced a high-quality package of down-home, country-tinged rock songs that are nothing short of fantastic. The album, Thin Places, is deep, introspective and, most of all, honest. For a guy best known (by me) for eloquently jammed-out soloing, his solo material is stripped-down to a rock 'n' roll minimum with solos as sparse as necessary. Each track is a gem of songwriting and a pleasure in its own right. Together they paint a landscape of a long, silent drive through the country in a torrential downpour. Indeed, the first time I popped this disc into the car’s CD player it was coming down pretty hard and the music balanced its open-heartedness with just enough grit to fit the mood perfectly.
File between early Wilco
and the Stones with Springsteen listening jealously at times.