Doyle Bramhall II – Shades
Provogue – 2018
12 tracks; 56 minutes
Doyle Bramhall II’s latest album features eleven Doyle originals co-written with a number of partners, including Akie Bermiss, Adam Minkoff, Althea Grace, Gabby Sherba, Andrew Trube, Elizabath Ziman and Norah Jones; the single cover is a re-working of a Bob Dylan song. Doyle handles much of the guitar work but also turns his hand to bass, piano, resonator and oud, alongside keyboard players Akie Bermiss, Elizabeth Ziman, Todd Caldwell, Michael Harris, Charlie Sexton and Adam Minkoff (who also covers bass on a few tracks, alongside Ted Pecchio and Byron Isaacs), drummers Carla Azur, Anthony Cole, Ed Miles, Yuval Lion and Steve Jordan.
Star guests include Norah Jones, Eric Clapton and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (of which more later). Doyle produced the album, sharing production duties on two tracks which were recorded at different studios, most of the album having been made in Brooklyn, NY.
Most of this album could be categorized as modern rock music with opener “Love And Pain” having Doyle’s skittering guitar break set against his own multi-tracked backing vocals, two bass lines, lots of keys and downbeat drums and “Hammer Ring” following a similar pattern with the oud giving an Eastern feel. “Everything You Need” is a melodic tune enlivened by Doyle’s sometime boss Eric Clapton’s guest turn on guitar and “London To Tokyo” adds strings and horns to another love song.
Guests feature on the next two tunes: Norah Jones wrote and shares vocals with Doyle on the attractive ballad “Searching For Love” where Doyle also plays some very pretty guitar; “Live Forever” was recorded in Austin, Texas, with The Greyhounds (Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell) and is a rocking tune with a good hook on the chorus, co-produced by Doyle and Andrew.
“Break Apart To Mend” is a fine ballad which Doyle sings very well over lots of bass and synthesizer sounds through which Elizabeth’s piano breaks through impressively; “She’ll Come Around” has a smaller band and an insistent rhythm and “The Night” is a mid-paced tune with another good hook and a choir of backing vocalists including co-writer Althea Grace. “Parvanah” has a haunting lyric about lost love with strings and hand percussion giving an Eastern/Arabic feel and Doyle playing some strangely distorted guitar before “Consciousness”, an interesting song with intriguing lyrics: “I want all to be free, tethered minds to the sea, lowly hearts open wide to the slow coming tide. Consciousness is riding on my tail”. The song starts in acoustic mode but builds with horns adding to the overall feeling that this makes a good album closer.
However, Doyle has an additional trick up his sleeve. He frequently collaborates with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and here combines with the full power of TTB on a superb version of Dylan’s “Going Going Gone”, a fine and rather forgotten song from his 1973 Planet Waves album. Doyle sings lead with Susan, the backing vocalists and the horns setting up a great guitar section where Doyle’s lead meets Derek’s slide in majestic flow – not blues but outstanding.
There is little or no blues here but several good songs if readers’ tastes range outside the blues field.