Randall Bramblett | Pine Needle Fire | (New West)
4 out of 5 stars
“There’s no substitute for experience,” a great man once said, and nowhere is that truer than concerning singer/songwriter Randall Bramblett.
The multi-instrumentalist started his career as a member of the Capricorn stable, backing dozens of musicians, from Gregg Allman to hard rockers Hydra, when that company was riding high on its 70’s Southern rock wave. From there he joined The Allman Brothers Band’s jazzy offshoot Sea Level then supported the legendary Steve Winwood in his road band for over 15 years. But that wasn’t enough for the creative Bramblett. Once he got back on his solo horse with 1998’s See Through Me, he hasn’t stopped since.
Pine Needle Fire is album number twelve in a remarkably reliable run that has found Bramblett consistently refining his soulful, lyrically complex music. This one is slightly more introspective and contemplative with songs like the dreamily romantic title track (“Said we were too young to be playing with fire/Now there ain’t enough water in the world/..to put the thing out”) and the psychedelic overtones of the reflective “Built to Last” (“Only be here for a little while/Then we’re gone/I thought we were built to last”).
Bramblett’s secret weapon is his sandy, emotional voice. It makes every lyric feel committed and honest. And the music follows suit. Whether he’s bringing low key funk on “Don’t Get Me Started” or chilly yet authentic atmospheric electronic percussion bubbling under what might be a personal story with “Lazy (And I Know It),” one of a few tunes that includes a horn section, Bramblett’s often layered sound is genuine and unique.
A highlight of the set is “I’ve Got Faith in You,” a lovely melancholy ballad made even more incisive by longtime friend and ex-Cowboy co-founder Tommy Talton’s slide guitar. He’s playing the same six-stringed instrument Duane Allman used on the Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East album and his sweet solo is clearly influenced by Allman’s supple playing. It’s the cherry on top of an already beautiful song.
At a dozen tracks that run an hour, there is plenty to unpack, and it’s all consistently engaging. Those who have followed Bramblett through his previous eight releases on New West (props to that label for sticking with him throughout the years) know that his work takes a while to seep in, but once it does, it sticks with you. Pine Needle Fire slots flawlessly with his established catalog while adding a fresh, somewhat reflective approach; music that could only have been crafted by someone with the experience, class and integrity Bramblett brings to everything he touches.