I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t discover Randall Bramblett until 2012 after hearing Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of “Used to Rule the World” from her Grammy winning LP Slipstream (“Best Americana Album,” 2013):
Sleepin’ on a concrete bench
Can I get a witness?
Miss South Carolina 1975
Somebody stole your crown
Listening to Bonnie sing about Miss South Carolina and reading the Slipstream liner notes, I discovered that Randall Bramblett was actually the songwriter. A bit more research revealed that he had released it himself four years earlier on his album Now It’s Tomorrow (2008). (Can you remember the world before Google?) Today, I don’t remember which album I bought when, but over the course of that year, I absorbed Randall’s entire back catalog like a sponge. What a tremendous talent he is — singer, songwriter, lyricist, multi-instramentalist. He has a rare gift. Did I say lyricist? He has been called the “William Faulkner of Southern Music.” Peppered throughout his songs are references to Chet Baker, Allen Ginsburg, Dione Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over,” Athens’ Nowhere Bar, the “clip joints on (U.S. Highway) 17,” and most recently the Huey Long Bridge, Shellman Bluff, and Howlin’ Wolf, but I’m getting ahead of myself. He was a member of the jazz/rock outfit Sea Level. He has worked with Gregg Allman, Chuck Leavell, Levon Helm, Robbie Roberton, Elvin Bishop, Steve Winwood, Traffic, Widespread Panic, and many others. As voracious a musical appetite as I have, how had Randall escaped my notice?
I met Randall at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur in late 2012 at his CD pre-release party, where I got a signed copy of The Bright Spots. In addition to being an amazing talent, he’s a really nice guy, very down to earth. I’ve seen him several times around Atlanta since then, a second time at the Attic, where I turned my neighbors on to Randall, once at a Moonlight & Music concert in Lawrenceville, an acoustic set at Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs, and most recently at the Red Clay Music Foundry in Duluth — owned by none other than Eddie Owens — when Randall was touring in support of Devil Music (2015).
How fortunate we are that Eddie runs a YouTube channel where we can see that very concert: the Randall Bramblett Band at the Red Clay Music Foundry, January 30, 2016. These clips (which should run consecutively) feature songs from Devil Music, but include gems from across his catalog.
Randall explains that “Devil Music,” the song, was inspired by the biography, Moanin’ At Midnight: The Life and Times Of Howlin’ Wolf (James Segrest, Mark Hoffman). Apparently Wolf, after achieving some degree of success went back to Mississippi to show his Mom he was doing well, to give her some money, to help her out, but really just to get some sort of affirmation from her. He wanted Mom to be proud of him. But she rejected Wolf, his money, his “devil’s music,” and sent him packing. And, as the song says:
Wolf cried all the way to Memphis.
The band members in the Red Clay clips are Randall Bramblett (keyboards, sax, clarinet, vocals), Nick Johnson (guitar), Michael Steele (bass, vocals), and Seth Hendershot (drums, vocals). The LP Devil Music features additional bandmates and collaborators including Gerry Hansen (drums), Chuck Leavell (piano), Davis Causey (guitar), and others. Mark Knopfler even makes a special guest appearance on the track “Dead in the Water.”
Randall is a southern gentlemen and a true artist — a poet — who continues to make soulful, funky, bluesy, rockin’, visceral but intelligent music. I’m proud Georgia can claim him as one of our own. I am a huge fan. I’m looking forward to Randall’s upcoming release Juke Joint at the Edge of the World, which is set to drop July 7. Be on the lookout. I’ll be sure to remind you.
A few of my personal favorites from Randall Bramblett.
Randall Bramblett Band Summer Tour Dates
June 5 – Nashville @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center
June 9 – Alexander City, AL @ Strand Park (Jazz Festival)
June 17 – Athens, GA @ The Foundry
June 23 – Macon, GA @ The Library Ballroom (CD Release Party)
June 24 – Decatur, GA @ The Vista Room
July 7 – Bethlehem, PA @ Steel Stacks Concert Series
July 8 – Roanoke, VA @ The Spot on Kirk
July 14 – Tybee Island, GA @ Tybee Post Theatre
July 15 – Charleston, SC @ Charleston Pourhouse
July 21 – Etowah, TN @ Arts Summer Nights
July 29 – Duluth, GA @ Red Clay Foundry
August 26 – Santa Rosa Beach, FL @ The Hub on 30A