Delaney Bramlett

Sounds from Home

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For whatever reason, Delaney Bramlett is a marginal figure on the music scene, a figure with a great and very influential past whose present is almost never acknowledged -- at least in America. Sounds From Home is a case in point. The man who is responsible for virtually creating Eric Clapton's sound in the 1970s and bringing the great southern R&B traditions together with hard rock and rambling country-soul (how many records did Gram Parsons and Duane Allman appear on together? One: Delaney & Bonnie's Motel Shot in 1971) is creating some of the finest music in his life, when most of his contemporaries settled for far less artistically, though they have reaped far more material benefit and historical recognition (Clapton's musical laziness is a case in point). The 12 tracks on Sounds From Home are steeped in the classic Delaney Bramlett style: plenty of grease, funk, grit, and soul with the texture of great country blues and spooky gospel tossed in. With ex-wife Kim Carmel, Bramlett created a vocal duo that is every bit as stirring and sensual as the one he had with Bonnie Bramlett. The charm is in the delivery, which is not charm at all, but pure emotion. While the record begins stomping on "Funky," with horns, a B-3, hand percussion, and the great arrangement style of Muscle Shoals, that is by no means the only ace up Bramlett's sleeve. "Free" is a love song that reveals every hairline fracture in the memory of the human heart. "Mississippi" evokes a hot, sweaty afternoon and breezy Southern nights and "Locked up in Alabama" has a wicked Robert Wilson bassline that acts as the foundation for a slippery, dark, steamy, funky track that is equal parts Staple Singers and Tony Joe White, but all Bramlett. Perhaps nowhere is that signature more prevalent than on an updated version of "Let It Rain" that Bramlett co-wrote with Clapton. Here the arrangement comes out of the Caribbean, complete with steel drums doing the fills and a virtual choir of backing vocalists that includes daughter Bekka. The vocal is pure heart, ringing through the singers and the band. Bramlett is calling down a rain so mighty it may even cleanse his own tortured heart. The set ends with the record's most heartbreaking track, "Brown Paper Bag," where Bramlett recounts the inability to recover from lost love or to quit carrying it around: "There's a brown paper bag holding all of my dreams/That brown paper bag isn't what it seems/When my life comes apart and the pieces fall/I've got a brown paper bag where I put them all." The strings swell, but not enough to cover a vocal that contains searing truth in every syllable. As the track winds out and disappears, there is only the hint of a whisper at its end, a seam that lies open just a fraction -- barely visible, but nonetheless inviting the listener to consider all that has taken place these past 45 minutes. In sum, it seems so simple, almost unnoticeable, until we realize that Sounds From Home is the truth of a man's life presented in the only way he knows how to relate it. And it's more than good enough -- it is necessary and instructive and burning with the brokenness that only true compassion provides. It's the kind of album we need in a dark and confusing time, and one that we can learn from as well as take comfort in for decades to come. Delaney Bramlett isn't back; he never left. For those who love his music as a soundtrack of rhythm and color in their lives, Sounds From Home is a kind and weathered voice that has been out in the storm of life for a long while, but has come home to tell its stories.

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