Doyle Bramhall II

Shades

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It took Doyle Bramhall II 15 years to deliver Rich Man, the sequel to 2001's Welcome, but only two to follow that 2016 record with Shades. Appropriately, Shades feels looser than its predecessor and more direct, too. Where Rich Man was dotted with epics, Bramhall keeps things generally concise on Shades, and he also firmly grounds the album in soul. The first sounds on Shades may recall the thick, heavy blues grooves of the Black Keys but by the time Bramhall gets to the chorus of "Love and Pain," he spins the song into classic '60s R&B. He's too restless a musician to stay there -- with the Greyhounds, he kicks up some noise on "Live Forever," the Tedeschi Trucks Band pulls out some deep blues on a cover of Bob Dylan's "Going Going Gone," and he indulges in psychedelia on "Parvanah" -- but he keeps circling back to sounds steeped in Southern soul. It results in a more cohesive album than its predecessor, but it's the lack of fussiness that makes Shades a better record: now that he's just knocking out songs and records, his music feels bracing and immediate.

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