Sunday, October 16, 2016

Doyle Bramhall II at the Bowery Ballroom

Guitarist/vocalist Doyle Bramhall II was born in Austin, Texas, and lived half of his life in Northern California. His father, Doyle Bramhall, Sr., played drums for bluesmen Lightnin' Hopkins and Freddie King and was a lifelong collaborator with his childhood friends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan. When the younger Bramhall was 18, he toured with Jimmie Vaughan's band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Two years later he co-founded the short-lived blues-rock band Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and members from Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Bramhall began releasing solo albums in 1996, gaining the attention of future collaborators Eric Clapton and Roger Waters; Bramhall wound up recording and touring with both. He has collaborated with many other artists, including the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Bramhall released his fourth studio album, Rich Man, on September 30, 2016.

Doyle Bramhall II has performed in New York many times, but usually in someone else's band. Tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, Bramhall played guitar, while also showcasing his songs and singing them as he led a band. Bramhall's set list stayed close to his new album, playing 10 of its 13 tracks, including for an encore his interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Hear My Train a Comin.'" Bramhall also performed a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Lovin' You" and his own "So You Want It to Rain" from a 2001 album. The performance was grounded in swampy southern blues, and Bramhall sang soulfully and rocked his guitar, notably towards the end of the set. Bramhall played left-handed, but with his guitar strung upside-down with the high E on the top, leading him to bend the strings by pulling them downwards rather than upwards. Generally speaking, however, there was very little dynamic radiating from the stage, rendering the music perhaps too laid back. Bramhall is an accomplished singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer, but is still working on becoming a front person that would energize or excite an audience.

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