Music

Randall Bramblett: The Meantime

Bramblett’s latest features him sitting down at a grand piano and taking things slow and easy. The dozen original tracks come from all periods of his career, but share in common an emphasis on pretty melodies and unhurried tempos.


Randall Bramblett

The Meantime

Label: Blue Ceiling
US Release Date: 2010-03-09
UK Release Date: 2010-03-09
Amazon
iTunes

Mellow music often has a pejorative connotation. People commonly associate the term with lazy afternoons, big pitchers of lemonade, and soft rock. But that’s a false stereotype and as insidious as thinking all country music is twangy, all heavy metal preaches devil worship, and all rap is about hos and bitches. The truth is, at its best, mellow music may be smooth and laid back, but it is also thoughtful and has a groove. Some of the best modern music may be categorized as mellow, a genre broad enough to include everything from James Taylor to the Shins, Barry White to REM, Tori Amos to Billie Holiday. Therefore, when pronouncing Randall Bramblett’s The Meantime as a fine and mellow record, this is meant as a complement.

Bramblett, who has played with legends like the Allman Brothers, Traffic, the Grateful Dead, and has been a member of Sea Level, has earned a reputation as a stellar musician. He’s also released more than a half a dozen solo albums that showcase his talents as a singer and songwriter. Bramblett’s latest features him sitting down at a grand piano and taking things slow and easy. The dozen original tracks come from all periods of his career, but share in common an emphasis on pretty melodies and unhurried tempos.

The lyrics reveal a restless spirit. The compositions may be slow paced, but they aren’t sleepy. They suggest the twilight time when one ponders what to do with the evening, what to do with one’s life, when one has the patience to actually think of “The Grand Scheme of Things”, as he says in the song of that title. Bramblett doesn’t come to easy resolutions or dismiss life’s problems, bad memories, or broken relationships that may have been his fault. Instead, he just realizes his regrets and relishes what life may have in store.

The music complements this state of mind through the silences between the notes. Whether he’s singing about a couple “Driving to Montgomery” to revisit the past or remembering being in church in “Sacred Harmony”, Bramblett stops after every vocal line, every note plunked on the piano, to let some quiet in. He understands the importance of letting the music breathe. He makes this evident even in the titles of his other songs, like “In the Meantime” and “Disconnected”, which reveal the importance of having a pause between thoughts and actions. Being “Disconnected” and having a period where one just waits offers the positive value of letting one miss what’s in the past and look forward to the future.

This sense of slowing time is reinforced by Gerry Hansen’s drums and percussion and Chris Enghauser’s upright bass. They keep the tempo moving without speeding up the pace, a difficult art to master. Amy Carlson’s violin and viola work adds an ornate beauty to the proceedings, and his ably joined by Cora Kuyvenhoven on cello. While Bramblett’s piano takes center stage, the accompanists provide a lovely background that allows the piano to declare the action without having to be loud and showy. Most importantly, though, is the sound of Bramblett’s vocals. He sings in a warm voice that invites the listener to share his emotions, without the need to be melodramatic. This is mellow music, in the best sense, but it's not ambient background. One is expected to pay attention and simply enjoy.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
9

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image