Bonnie Bramlett

I'm Still the Same

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Even those who remember her performances as copilot of the soulful all-star revue called Delaney & Bonnie & Friends will be startled by the intensity of this comeback album. With full-throated, empathetic vocals throughout I'm Still the Same, Bramlett connects a variety of pop traditions, from jump blues to gauzy romantic balladry, and makes it all work. Her ability to read a lyric on tunes like "Hurt" compares to that of Dinah Washington, and not unfavorably. At medium tempos, such as the Santana-style samba of "What If," Bramlett sings comfortably around the beat, working the tension between the steady pulse and her more rubato phrasing. She's strongest, however, when the groove is slow; the 6/8 crawl of "No Man's Land," for example, lets her draw full dramatic effect from the lyric, especially on long notes that she can twist, stretch, and milk dry through a carefully controlled vibrato, subtle timbral variation, and other tools of expression. And her wrenching, intimate revival of "Superstar," sweetened by Mickey Raphael's haunting harmonica fills, will induce chills, whether you remember the '70s or not.

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