Doyle Bramhall II – A Wealth of Experience
Bramhall is a Texas-born guitar player, singer, producer, songwriter, bandleader perhaps best known for his contributions to tours by the likes of Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. His father was a well-known blues drummer, performing with Lightnin’ Hopkins and Freddie King, making a fine solo album called Bird’s Nest On The Ground.
At only eighteen years old, Doyle was playing guitar in harpist Kim Wilson’s group The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He also teamed up with the SRV bassist and drums team Double Trouble and guitar ace and Dylan sideman Charlie Sexton to play and record as Arc Angels. The name was taken from the recording studios, I believe.
Then our good friend Mick Martin began raving about a solo album Jellycream that he was playing on his KXJZ radio show. He sent me a copy and the songs knocked me out. There were more great compositions on the Welcome album by Bramhall and Smokestack. On the occasion of several dates here – with Clapton and ‘own’ – we seized the chance of running some questions past the star. Here are his responses:
JLTT: Where are you currently based?
Santa Monica, California
Do you recall playing a Clapton show at Royal Albert Hall, London when Robert Randolph opened the evening?
I do recall those shows and that tour that Robert was opening the shows. We had a lot of fun with him. He’s high energy all the time!
On the new album Rich Man, what was in your head when you worked out what you’d do with Hear My Train A Comin’ ? ( I did see Hendrix play, my favourite era was Rainbow Bridge)
That’s very cool since Rainbow Bridge has always been a favorite of mine as well. That was always a very subtle and powerful era with Jimi .
That song moved when I was young and I wanted to record it electrically with my band while we were in the studio recording Rich Man. it just seemed like a great way to bookend the album and bring it full circle, back to where it all began for me. The Blues.
Keep You Dreamin’ may be my favourite cut on Rich Man..is it you channeling Marvin Gaye Trouble Man / Curtis Mayfield Superfly in mood?
Thank you. I really love playing and singing that song live. I had the Isley Brothers in my mind when I was gathering inspiration for that song but Marvin and Curtis are as big inspirations for me as well.
The version of Green Light Girl on the Snow-something soundtrack sounds different from the album one? Or am I going crazy?
Ha! I don’t even know what that is.
(Glenn solved this one by recalling that I gave him the soundtrack album to Out Cold because it included Green Light Girl (Rock Remix). The song also features in a Stallone film around the same time. Hopefully Doyle received some royalties – PS)
Your ‘flipped’ guitar playing technique is a mind-bender for Righties. Are there dynamic pluses or minuses?
I guess the main plus would be that it’s easier to pull down when you’re bending strings rather than pushing up. I think a lot of chords would fall into place a little more naturally if strung left handed.
What was your favourite tune to play on Roger Waters’ gigs? Any reason?
There were so many but I think “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” for playing and “Breathe” to sing. Every show with Roger felt pretty monumental to me. It was such a majestic show put together by a brilliant minded songwriter, performer and artist!
Jellycream was given to me by a US DJ pal and I love I Wanna Be, Marry You, Day Come Down..sometimes there seems a Cream vibe on the harmonies – consciously? Were you a fan?
I actually remember naming the Jellycream after Jelly, Jelly, Jelly by Bobby Bland and the band name Cream since I was influenced by them. it’s very ironic that after Jellycream came out the Eric became a fan of that album. Pretty sweet!!
Welcome was a cool record, can you tell me about So You Want It To Rain please?
From what I can remember, I think that I wanted to do something that was inspired by the band Traffic. They were one of my favorite bands.
How was the recent Sheryl Crow session?
It was fast and furious. I always love playing and singing with her.
Would you like to say anything about the late Sharon Jones?
I think that she was one of the most powerful performers that I’ve ever seen and I don’t know anyone who gave more to music and the fans as she did. She contributed so much! My heart goes out to all the Dap Kings and her family!
How come you know Nikka Costa? – One of my favourite singers – and have you recorded with her?
I know her through mutual friends and musicians in Los Angeles. We’ve worked together on a lot of projects. I also worked co-producing records with her husband Justin Stanley for many years.
Did you have a hard time at school? Like me, you seem to have a face that says you did it.
Actually it wasn’t that hard because I never went!
Double Trouble..what numbers did you try out as your contribution to their album?
Just the songs that I guested on that made the album
Arc Angels had their own sound – are there any live recordings of that band?
I think the Arc Angels DVD has live cuts.
Even on the new record, some of your songs seem right for Willie Nelson? Shoot me down if you disagree! have you ever met Willie?
I never thought about it. But yes, I have worked with Willie. He’s one of the greatest songwriters of our lifetime.
We will be at the Under The Bridge show – best room in the country – any chance of I Wanna Be??
Thank you so much!! I make the set lists in the moment! Gotta feel it out! See you there! Peace. Doyle
(Thanks Doyle and thanks Liam)