With the music business in a state of flux, it is indeed refreshing to come across an artist who isn’t struggling to reinvent herself daily to fit a fleeting slot that may not exist in a week’s time. The new offering from Bonnie Bramlett, Beautiful, is proof positive that sticking with a known commodity is a sure way to remain competitive and successful in an ever-changing music business.
Now, sometimes—just sometimes, the musical world and the real world step in line, and recordings such as this materialize from a place of deep honesty. Here, Bramlett snuggles deep down into a familiar blanket of earthy melodies that bring out the best in her bare-bones, smoky vocal style. This album is brimming with fresh new material, classic feels, and songs that unfold like the roadmap of her life, and the best songs here hit with unexpected force.
The eleven recordings on this CD stretch from smooth as silk rhythm and blues, “Sure Got a Way With My Heart,” to sinewy, hard-as-rock “Strongest Weakness.” Classic blues numbers punctuate the recording such as “It’s Gonna Rain All Night,” and “Shake Something Loose,” and there are even country-tinged, gospel numbers, “I Do Believe, and “He’ll Take care of You.” The Stephen Stills classic, “For What It’s Worth,” becomes magically transformed into something almost unrecognizable in Bramlett’s version. A real sleeper on the CD is Bramlett’s hard hitting, missing-in-action friend’s requiem, “Some of my Best Friends.”
Bramlett stretches out, and digs deep into her hidden heart with the stunning duet version of Randall Bramblett’s (no relation) “Witness for Love,” and again in Steve Conn’s remarkable, battered woman lament and title cut “Beautiful.” Raw emotion and elegant despair are Bramlett’s stock and trade, and these two numbers give her all the emotional ammunition that she needs to break down the walls. Simply amazing!
Something special happens when lifelong friends come together and pour their hearts into a recording session—something very special—and when those friends are also the most requested studio musicians, producers, and engineers in the south, something special turns to magic.
Bramlett is joined on this recording by friends and family that reads like a who’s who of southern musical royalty. The players include daughter Bekka Bramlett—harmony vocals, Bill Stewart—drums, Lynn Williams—drums, David Hood—bass, Spooner Oldham—Hammond B-3, James Pennebaker—pedal steel and dobro, Scott Boyer—acoustic guitar and background vocals, Scott Boyer III—slide guitar, Tommy Talton—electric guitar, Charles Rose—trombone, tambourine, and horn arrangements, Joe McGlonon—sax, Ken Watters and Vinnie Cielieski—trumpet, Harvey Thompson—tenor sax, Doug Moffatt and Jimmy Bowland—baritone sax, Walter Pousson, Jr.—guitar, Clayton Ivey—keyboards, Randall Bramblett—keyboards, soprano sax, duet, and background vocals, Kevin McKendree—piano, Mickey Buckins—percussion, and Kelvin Holly—on just about every guitar incarnation known to man.
If the musicians listed above aren’t enough to make you run out and buy this recording, the studio credits include the legendary Capricorn Studios wizard, Johnny Sandlin—producer, and chief engineer, Jeremy Stephens—engineer and mixer, Andrew Hull—assistant engineer, and Brad White—intern. The project was recorded and mixed at Johnny Sandlin’s Duck Tape Music Studio, Decatur, AL and mastered by Jonathan Russell at Masterfonics, Nashville, TN.
- Bill Thames