Doyle Bramhall II

Doyle Bramhall II

What is it about Doyle Bramhall II, and why does everybody want to work with him? Since 2000, the uniquely gifted guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer has been practically joined to Eric Clapton’s hip as both an onstage and studio collaborator. In addition to Slowhand, other music greats have sought Bramhall’s distinctive talents: Roger Waters, T-Bone Burnett, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint, Sheryl Crow, Billy Preston, Dr. John, Michael McDonald, Erykah Badu, Questlove, Meshell Ndegeocello – as it’s often said, the list goes on and on.

So what is it about this dynamic, multi-faceted performer – a southpaw who plays his guitar turned upside-down and strung righty, no less – that makes him the first-call pick for music stars of virtually every modern genre?

“I don’t know if I can answer that,” Bramhall says sheepishly. “Without appearing immodest, I can admit that I’ve led a pretty charmed life. One musical experience flowed into the next, and over time I’ve been able to work with so many people I’ve admired and who influenced me. If I can point to one thing, I think it’s because I immerse myself in the spirit of collaboration. I really want to understand where somebody else is coming from, and that makes me support and enhance what they’re doing. Perhaps that’s why other people want me to play with them.” He lets out a laugh and says, “Nobody’s ever really told me why!”

Bramhall grew up in Austin, Texas with music coursing through his blood. His father, the elder Doyle Bramhall, had played drums in a band with his childhood friend, guitarist Jimmie Vaughan (their band The Chessman once opened for Jimi Hendrix), and he would go on to collaborate with other Lone Star greats like Jimmie’s brother, Stevie Ray, as well as Freddie King and Lightnin’ Hopkins. The younger Bramhall picked up the guitar early and would jam with his dad. By the age of 15, he was rubbing shoulders with the Vaughan brothers (“they were like family to me”) while playing in various bands, sometimes making $400 for weekend gigs.

At 18, he was tapped by Jimmie Vaughan to join the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and two years later, following the tragic death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, he and fellow Austin guitar ace Charlie Sexton teamed with SRV’s Double Trouble rhythm section, drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, to form the band Arc Angels. The band released a strong self-titled debut album in 1992 but broke up before they could record a follow-up. Bramhall then signed with Geffen Records and embarked on a solo career, issuing a pair of albums – Doyle Bramhall II (1996, Geffen Records) and Jellycream (1999, RCA) – that won the hearts of music critics as well as a couple of music icons, Roger Waters and Eric Clapton, who would soon call upon his services.
Bramhall played guitar and sang both lead and backup vocals during Roger Waters’ 1999-2000 In the Flesh world tour (his performances are documented on the CD and DVD releases, In the Flesh – Live), and his association with the Pink Floyd singer might have lasted longer had he not received a call from Clapton. "One day I pick up the phone, and I hear this voice – ‘Hey, this is Eric, and I'm a huge fan of what you do,’” Bramhall recalls. “’I’d love to get together with you because I'm making a record with B.B King.’”
That album would be 2000’s Riding with the King, Clapton’s Grammy-winning, double platinum duet recording with one of his biggest blues influences. Clapton not only featured Bramhall’s virtuosic playing on the album, but he also covered two of his favorite cuts from Jellycream, “Marry You” and “I Wanna Be.” “I was honored to be brought in to play with Eric and B.B.,” Bramhall notes, “but to have Eric do a couple of my songs was thrilling beyond belief.”
Riding with the King was the start of a two-decade-long partnership that saw Bramhall join Clapton’s touring band as his fiery guitar foil and in the studio as a trusted and creative collaborator. Bramhall performed ace axe lines on Clapton’s 2004 Robert Johnson tribute albums, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J, and his own songs were woven into records such as Reptile (2001), Back Home (2004) and The Road to Escondito (2005). Eventually, Bramhall graduated to co-producer on the albums Clapton (2010) and Old Sock (2013).
While touring and recording with Clapton, Bramhall jetted around the globe to work with the numerous music stars who were now vying for his attention. Among them was Sheryl Crow – Bramhall co-produced and wrote songs for the singer’s 2011 album, 100 Miles from Memphis, and then joined her on tour (he also contributed shimmering guitar work on Crow’s Be Myself last year). And he began a longtime association with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, joining the group on tour and as well as writing songs for band and solo recordings by its founders, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.
With Bramhall concentrating on his career as a sideman and producer, he had put his solo work on the back burner, but he returned in earnest on his self-produced album from 2016, Rich Man, on which he explored deeply personal themes and feelings in the wake of his father’s 2011 death in a series of songs that mixed white-hot blues rock, grooving Southern soul as well as some of the transfixing Middle Eastern sounds he’d absorbed in his travels to Morocco and India. Reviews for Rich Man were rhapsodic: American Blues Scene raved that the album was “generously filled with a multitude of aural pleasures and sonic landscapes that are full and vibrant.” And AllMusic opined that Bramhall’s “first album in 15 years is also his best… It starts expansive and keeps expanding.”

“That album was me sort of breaking the glass to become the artist and producer I wanted to be,” says Bramhall, who now makes good on his creative mission with his fifth solo album, Shades. Recorded mostly in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the album is a spellbinding blend of grungy blues, raucous garage rock, transcendent psychedelia, and soul-stirring ballads that sees Bramhall reaching new heights as a guitarist and vocalist while responding to his heart’s most urgent commands as an arranger and lyricist.

“I called the album Shades after looking at photos taken for the record,” Bramhall explains. “There can be shades of light and color, but also of sound and emotions. I believe that an album represents a period of time in one’s life, almost like a snapshot. On the last album, I was reconciling one set of feelings, and now I’m at a different place personally and emotionally. A lot of the songs are about understanding and embracing a sort of inner peace that’s taken me a long time to discover. Hopefully, those realizations are things other people can relate to.”

Performing alongside Bramhall on Shades is a group of musicians he’s worked with over the years, to name a few, guitarist Chris Bruce, multi-instrumentalist, bassist and string arranger Adam Minkoff, and drummers Carla Azar and Abe Rounds. There are also notable appearances by a host of friends and luminaries, chief among them Eric Clapton, whose blistering back-and-forth guitar work with Bramhall on the quaking R&B-tinged “Everything You Need” is an axe lover’s dream.

Bramhall and pianist-singer Norah Jones have been making music together for years – she dueted with him on Rich Man’s “New Faith” – and the two form a heavenly alliance on the elegant ballad “Searching for Love.” A startling sonic change occurs on “Live Forever,” a rip-snorting, volatile dose of amp-busting rock on which Bramhall teams with Texas pals the Greyhounds. Some songs you craft and refine for weeks,” Bramhall observes, “and others you just blast out. This one was the latter. “I called the guys up and said, ‘Hey, let’s do something Austin-style. Within three hours, we had that track.”

Shades concludes with a reverent reading of Bob Dylan’s classic “Going, Going, Gone,” a gem from the singer’s 1974 album, Planet Waves. Bramhall had recently performed the song with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at a Gregg Allman tribute concert last year (the singer covered the track on his final album, Southern Blood), and he felt that a reunion with the group would make a powerful coda on his record. “The whole thing, all the guitar parts with me, Derek and Susan, came together very naturally. I recorded it with the entire 11-piece band right in the studio.”

Summarizing the experience of recording Shades just two years after Rich Man, Bramhall says, “The new record finally feels like I’m comfortable in my own skin, like I don’t have anything to prove other than trying to express myself as honestly as I can. As an artist, writer and producer, I’m in a good place, and I think I can allow this flow of music to come out and form a real body of work that my fans can appreciate. I’m thrilled to have them go on this journey with me.

Hamish Anderson: A student of the three Kings (Albert, BB and Freddie), Peter Green and Keith Richards with influences of Jeff Buckley and Tom Petty.

“I started playing guitar when I was 12,” notes Melbourne, Australia-raised, LA-based Hamish Anderson. With “Trouble,” the raw, chunky opening cut and title track of his debut full-length studio CD, a couple of things become clear toute de suite: 1) The affable young Australian is intimate with a six-string, and 2) His music belies his youth. This child of the ’90s, raised on his dad’s classic rock vinyl, has roots that go deeper than you’d guess. Much deeper.

“I don’t think I’d ever thought about guitar before listening to the Beatles’ White Album,” he’ll tell you. “Listening to ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.,’ something just clicked; it’s all I’ve thought about since.”

But his roots go deeper still. He effortlessly namechecks blues legends Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, and Son House, revealing a love for a genre that predates him by decades. “I think with the blues and rock music it was the honesty of the music and—especially the blues—the relatability of it; everyone experiences the blues.”

Anderson left his homeland in the spring of 2014 to give it a go in America because “the blues and rock is what I connect with, and it’s all from here.” Seeking opportunity, he aimed for the moon and hit the stars; within months this then-23-year-old wunderkind had become the very last artist to open for his hero, B.B. King, and he’d been heralded by guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr. in Revolt.tv as someone to watch under the age of 30.


Since then he’s issued a pair of EPs and a live album, and racked up an impressive array of accomplishments, including a prestigious 2015 Independent Music Award for Best Song—Blues (for “Burn,” from his sophomore EP); profiles in The Huffington Post and in the U.K.’s The Blues Magazine’s 2015 “Future of Blues Music” issue; and opening slots for Robert Cray, Los Lobos, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Wynona Judd, Vintage Trouble, Low Cut Connie and a 12-city run with The Rides (Stephen Stills, Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg).

And now comes Trouble, produced by Jim Scott (Tom Petty, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ryan Bingham, Wilco, Grace Potter) and recorded predominantly live. “Jim had worked on a lot of albums from the ’90s and 2000s that I really, really love,” Anderson says. “Wildflowers by Tom Petty is, for me, the example of a perfect album. Jim’s the real deal.

“We wanted to do the majority of it live, with very few overdubs—get a really great band together and have it be about the songs, not about spending so much time on how the bass drum sounds. It was capturing, warts and all, the live thing. Rock music and blues music shouldn’t be perfect, and I’m really proud that there’s no Auto-Tune on it, that nothing was done to a click track.”

Decamping to Scott’s LA-area warehouse studio, Anderson was backed by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos on baritone sax; drummers Frederik Bokkenheuser (Ryan Adams), Aaron Sterling (John Mayer), and Johnny Radelat (Gary Clark Jr.); bassists Chris Bruce (Doyle Bramhall II, Meshell Ndegeocello) and Rob Calder (Angus & Julia Stone); and Chris Joyner (Ryan Bingham, Heart) and Jason Borger aka Jerry Borgé (Jonathan Wilson) on keys. The album was mastered by Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering in Los Angeles.
A deep collection of standout rock and blues tracks, including “Hold On Me,” “Fire,” “U,” “Working Blues,” “My Sweetheart, You,” and the first single, “Trouble” (which was immediately championed by Spotify appearing on their Blues & Roots Rock Official playlist and spun on radio stations coast to coast), Trouble released on October 21st to stellar reviews from Elmore Magazine, Relix Magazine, Rock Cellar Magazine, Premier Guitar and various other music blogs.

Additionally, Yahoo! Music named Hamish in their Top 10 Best New Artists in 2016, KCSN in LA included it as one of the Top 10 Best New Albums in 2016 and Songpickr, a premiere Spotify playlist curator, included Trouble as one of the Top 50 Albums of 2016. He was named a Taco Bell "Feed The Beat" artist in the fall of 2017.

Upon release,“U”, Hamish’s third single, was added to rotation on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, was #5 on MBE's Top 10 tracks for the week of 10/7/2017, was featured on NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation and Here & There DJ Sessions, as well as appearing on Songpickr's Best of 2017. Additionally, it was named "Best of Week" on Apple Music in Australia and Japan.

In 2017, Hamish performed 11 sets during SXSW and appeared at US festivals such as Firefly, Mountain Jam, High Sierra, Summerfest, Big Blues Bender, Echo Park Rising, Telluride Blues Festival and Canada’s RBC Bluesfest Ottawa. In 2018, Hamish is recorded his second album in LA and in May toured Europe for the first time -- with appearances at Moulin Blues and Ribs En Blues in The Netherlands; and the Grolsch Blues Festival in Germany.

He returned to the US to perform at Bottlerock Napa Valley, CA and also appeared at KCRW's Chinatown Summer Nights series, Madame Siam, KCSN's Live at the Village in Topanga, CA and Eden Roc on 8/24/18 in Miami, FL in support of his new single, “No Good” https://ffm.to/nogood — which was immediately added to Spotify’s Official Nu Blues playlist and Apple Music Japan’s Best of the Week upon launch.

His new video for "No Good" premiered on Billboard with a feature article about his next album (http://bit.ly/2Mx0rDf).

-Jim Nelson, KCSN (LA) Radio Host + Juel Concepts Team

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