Randall Bramblett

Thin Places

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On his fifth album as leader -- and his second for New West -- wily Southern singer/songwriter Randall Bramblett keeps his cards close to the rock & roll vest, and cranks out songs that ring so large, they're almost anthems. While there a thousand songwriters who deserve more attention than they get, it's as a singer that Bramblett separates himself from the pack. His gritty, grainy, in-your-face delivery makes no apologies and takes no prisoners -- he conveys emotion in every syllable. On Thin Places, he teams up with Nash Vegas producer and session bassist Michael Rhodes, and co-writes with mate Jason Slatton on more than half of the album's 11 selections. Along with his regular band -- which is a diverse unit of crack players who include guitarists Slatton, Kenny Greenberg, and Davis Causey, as well as drummer Shawn Pelton, while Rhodes handles the bass chores -- Bramblett takes the country out of Southern rock, the hooks out of radio-friendly pop, and the roundness out of rock attack, and offers a smoking little record of songs that have at their heart a poetic intensity, an emotional delivery, and a rough-hewn grace. Standout tracks are the ringing "You Can Be the Rain," the slow, raggedly beautiful shuffle "Nobody's Problem" (which sounds like Crazy Horse fronting a band led by Delbert McClinton instead of Neil Young) and the shimmering midnight soul-fried funkiness of "Black Coat," with Bramblett's Hammond B-3 slithering through the mix with ghostly fills. The darkly swirling "Chet Baker" also makes its mark with gorgeous chord voicings from Bramblett's piano. The languid pace of the track and its bubbling, subtly insistent rhythm track move the cut with beautiful atmospherics. Thin Places is a genre-busting album, one that is realized with confidence and plenty of heart. It is the mark of a mature artist at the peak of his powers of reining in the various forces at his disposal as a lyricist and as a tunesmith. As a singer he has passed his own high-water mark for emotional authenticity and sheer gutsy verve.

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