Doyle Bramhall II's New Album: Shades
Doyle Bramhall II releases his new album, Shades, on October 5th via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
The vocalist, guitarist, composer and producer is well-known for his high profile work with Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Elton John, Sheryl Crow and more. The son of late Texas music legend Doyle Bramhall, the younger Bramhall hit the road as a teenager with Jimmie Vaughan's band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1990, he formed the Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Doyle's first solo album arrived in 1996 but it was his second, "Jellycream," that brought him to the attention of Clapton and Waters in 1999. Since then, he has regularly worked with EC in the studio and on stage.
Where’s Eric! was delighted to catch up again with Doyle, towards the end of an extensive European promotional tour, where he spoke at length about the recording of Shades, his fifth studio album. Read extracts from the interview below (the full interview will be published in the forthcoming issue of Where’s Eric! Magazine). But first, enjoy Katrina Keeling’s review of the new album:
The illustrious talent and prodigious career of Doyle Bramhall continues with the release of a new album, Shades, his first since the 2016 release of Rich Man. With Doyle, you always know you’re going to get some great guitar playing, with solos tastier than a warm pretzel with a melted beer cheese dip, and well-structured songs high on emotion! Shades doesn’t disappoint once, starting with the brooding opening track, Love and Pain, which addresses last year’s tragic Las Vegas shooting.
Although Clapton watchers will be so used to seeing Doyle as a band member and producer, that narrow perception doesn’t do the range of Doyle’s talents justice. Brace yourself to be reminded of the quality of his song writing pedigree; remember this is the chap who BB King and Clapton lifted for songs from for Riding with the King. In Shades, it’s refreshing to hear more of his voice and delve deeper into his song-writing prowess. There is a tremendous depth and poignancy in his writing, heard in songs such as Break Apart to Mend, one of several love songs on the album that reflect Doyle’s current peace of mind.
If you’re going to make an album and you’ve got as great a little black book of professional and friend’s phone numbers as Doyle, you’d be churlish not to call upon them. Shades certainly features many such collaborations; Norah Jones (Searching for Love), Eric Clapton (Everything you Need), the Greyhounds (Live Forever)and The Tedeschi Trucks Band joining for a take on Dylan’s Going, Going, Gone. Admittedly you might be hard pressed to produce a turkey with this caliber of friends backing you, but Doyle proves again he has what it takes as a standalone artist and the big names don’t detract from the main man’s presence; Shades is most definitely his album, and a fine one too.
- Katrina Keeling
Shades is available for pre-order from iTunes, Amazon and other retailers. You can listen to some of the tracks now and pre-order from Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group HERE.
The Where’s Eric! Interview
Doyle Bramhall II with TE
TE: you’re becoming quite prolific now, 2 albums in 2 years after the long wait prior to Rich Man?
DB: I just wanted to get in a new way of flowing, making records as frequently as possible. Really I could easily live like the Beatles, when they stopped touring, they spent all their time in the studio and I could easily do that. I would love to bring albums out every year because the people I grew up listening to brought out at least one, sometimes two records a year. In this day and age, in the modern music industry, everything is singles based, song by song, who’s guesting on who’s record, it’s really about making the biggest type of event rather than being the artists’ journey and just documenting what that artist makes.
I sense you had something to say with this album, you seem to be in a different place now, inner peace perhaps?
Part of me has inner peace and part of me is never satisfied. It keeps me pushing as much as I can, keeps me on my toes. I really feel like I’m just getting started.
You told me earlier that you had new management now, a new record label and new agent; what was behind all that?
I wanted to have a team that was on board and I wanted the machine to be firing on all cylinders. Previously I had some things that were there but nothing was really working with much synergy. As far as the business part of it, I’ve had cool people to work with but it just didn’t feel like it was completely the right fit for me.
I wanted to establish myself in a bigger way in the UK and Europe and even Eastern Europe so, having a European based company that has also had success, I feel like I have all the parts now. Even though I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life, trying to keep up with it all, and create a lot of product, even though I don’t like that word (laughs).
What is the significance of the album title Shades?
The title was the last piece of making this record. When I was thinking of the photo shoot for the album I was thinking about being shot in black and white. I love black and white photography, its really classic looking, some of the most quintessential shots of people, for me, have been in black and white, it’s really simple, beautiful and contrasting. I had this idea it would be like a Fellini type photo shoot, but I didn’t quite have the budget to put that all together (laughs). But then I started thinking 60’s Italian noir, and when I got the photos back and when I saw what would become the album cover shot, it looks like this white light, some kind of spirit leaving my body, emanating from me. So I started thinking of shades of black and white and then thinking about, based on that photo, how many shades of one’s character there can be, or a personality. There are so many facets to life and people and things that you can’t see. It wasn’t just about light or sunglasses!
The song Everything you Need features Eric Clapton; How and where did Eric record his piece?
I wrote that song in my hotel room in Suwalki, Poland. When I got back to the US after my European tour, I recorded it and, in listening back to it, I just kept thinking to myself Eric would love this. I was very inspired by bands like The Isley Brothers and Sly Stone and tried to create some of that sound. I knew what a big fan he was of those bands and I could really hear him doing that song.
So I asked if he could play on it with me and he said that he was going to be in Ohio, and he would be in the studio if I could get to him. So I booked a flight and went there, drove up to his house, had a couple of cups of tea and we recorded it. He did like four passes of the solo and afterwards I was like “Ok, cool, thank you”. I was about to leave and he said “So what are you going to do?” And I said “I’m going back to LA and I’m going to replace my guitar based on what you played”. And he said “well hold on a second. If you’re going to play again on this, then I’m gonna play mine again right now” (laughs). So he ended up doing one more pass and that’s what is on the record.
Generally though, how do you say to someone like Eric, when he’s done one take, “Have another go, or, can you try something different”, or does he himself volunteer, like “Let me do another”?
When I was producing with him, on his records, I would do that more, but here I just wanted him to enjoy the process of him playing with me on the record. I wanted him to do what he naturally does because Eric’s instinct, especially when he’s stepping up, is one of the greatest instincts in the world.
There’s some lovely guitar duelling towards the end of the song, was that fairly spontaneous, jamming maybe?
I’ve been playing with Eric for 17 years so I feel like we are musical brothers. We have different ways of expressing things on our instruments but I feel like we are still drawing form the same vocabulary. And I haven’t met many people in my life that have the same vocabulary as me.
I grew up as a kid in Texas with only 2 other people, and they were my family, that liked, what would be considered, really obscure blues. When I was 11 years old, I was in a classroom, in a history class and one day they put up a film projector and played The World according to Lightnin’ Hopkins, a documentary about his life. And I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me when that came on, I was so enthralled, I was so amazed by it, the way he acted, the way he talked and the way he played, I said “this is what I want to do”. Everybody else in the class was soooo bored and I was like “I’m the only one like me!” (laughs)
So when I eventually met Eric years later and we started talking, he had all the same references as I did, and a lot of those references were from Louisiana and Texas in the 50’s and 60’s, and he knew all these obscure blues artists that I knew about. It’s like we were both drawing from the same place but we have different ways of expressing it.
So, that leads me to the end solo (laughs); I just let him play the solo out and I went back in to redo my solo that was already there and I played to what he played. I feel like we play really well together – I hear him play something and its just like automatic, I’m inspired to play something off what he is playing. I don’t think I did more than one take of that.
Read the full interview with Doyle in Issue 47 of Where’s Eric!, dropping through a letterbox near you soon. Still not a subscriber? Click HERE