Samples from "Beautiful"
Track 01 - Sure Got A Way With My Heart - Listen
Track 02 - Witness For Love - Listen
Track 03 - Strongest Weakness - Listen
Track 04 - Beautiful - Listen
Track 05 - For What It's Worth - Listen
Track 06 - Some Of My Best Friends - Listen
Track 07 - I Do Believe - Listen
Track 08 - Shake Something Loose - Listen
Track 09 - Bless ?Em All - Listen
Track 10 - It's Gonna Rain - Listen
Track 11 - He'll Take Care Of You - Listen
Bonnie Bramlett looks you straight in the eye. Then she lays it out.
"I don't do 'famous,'" she says, her voice as wise and true as a Saturday night slow-drag or a Sunday morning sermon. "I don't have an entourage. I don't ride in limos. I don't call cars. It takes a lot of work to be famous..."
And here she leans back, her eyes dancing playfully. "...and I'm just a lazy girl."
Laughter follows, as infectious and beckoning as the rhythm in her speech. Even so, it only hints at how Bramlett communicates through songs - and that case is made clear on
Beautiful, the latest and certainly one of the greatest albums this peerless singer has ever tracked.
Bramlett has followed just about every path through the landscape of American music. Go back beyond her previous release, the title-says-it-all
Roots, Blues & Jazz, back through the phenomenon of Delaney & Bonnie, whose electrifying shows inspired Eric Clapton to give up his superstar spotlight and woodshed as a member of their band, earlier even than her apprenticeship as the only white Ikette ever welcomed into the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, all the way to the days when she used to sneak as a teen from her steel-town neighborhood into black blues bars of St. Louis, to hear and then to sing with the likes of Little Milton and Albert King.
All of these experiences come together on Beautiful, an album that's elegant in its simplicity and profound in its depth. It was recorded with the best of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section joined by roots-rock veterans, members of Little Richard's and Delbert McClinton's bands, and others gathered by Johnny Sandlin, whose artist-centric productions defined the Southern rock movement and gave Bramlett the inspiration she needed to record two of her best solo albums,
It's Time (1975) and Lady's Choice (1976).
Beautiful began, in fact, with Bramlett and Sandlin revisiting the bridges they had built on those projects. "Some of the greatest work I ever did was with Johnny," she remembers. "Johnny had the patience of a saint with me because I bring all of these intense feelings into the studio. Onstage, those feelings are great. But they don't always translate that well offstage. In fact, I made up this joke: What did you do, back in the day, when the singer is losing her mind, crying, lying on the floor and having a nervous breakdown? If you're Johnny Sandlin, you put a mike on her and hit 'Record.'"
Bramlett laughs again, and that vignette takes us to the birth of Beautiful. The singer in that riddle remains fundamentally a vessel of emotion but capable now of infusing the flow of feeling into a song with subtler insights. Sandlin, too, has grown, so when they got together shortly after she had finished
Roots, Blues & Jazz, each knew the time was right for them to cut another classic.
As soon as they started going through songs, the teamwork they had developed fell back into play. "The first question I asked Johnny was, 'Are you willing to take a risk?' He said, 'Sure, why not? We can do what we want! In fact, I've got a song that would be a little bit of a risk.' And I said, 'Well, I have one that's a major risk, but it needs to be said.'"
Those two songs lit the torch that illuminated their reunion. The title that Sandlin suggested was Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," which had wrapped the passions of the late '60s into a single, potent statement. And Bramlett's choice was "Some of My Best Friends," a Gary Cotten meditation on the timelessness of intolerance. Each conveys a meaning that, for all the variety in her catalog, represents somewhat new territory for the singer.
"I've never mixed music and politics, not even in the '60s," she says. "But 'For What It's Worth' fits right now, big time. And I've got 'Some of My Best Friends' in my heart. I've been trying to cut it for years, in fact, but nobody would touch that song with me. Why? It's because they're in the business of making hit records. But Johnny's in the business of making great records. So we did 'em both - and the way I see it, if you get it, praise God! And if you don't, I'll be praying for you."
The rest of Beautiful followed quickly, as Bramlett and Sandlin pitched songs to each other. There was "I Do Believe," the Waylon Jennings rumination on the search for truth; Gary Nicholson's "Bless 'Em All," which addresses a similar theme with a wry grin and a warm embrace; the smoky, last-call, horn-steamed "It's Gonna Rain All Night" and the dreamy, steel-sweetened title track... each, like the rest, a gem in its conception and performance.
Yet several jewels stand out even in this crown. The Stones-seasoned rocker "Shake Somethin' Loose" and the sultry "Witness for Love" were written by Randall Bramblett, the gifted singer/songwriter who had joined previously with Bramlett on
It's Time. He sings as well on "Witness for Love," in a performance that inspires Bramlett to exclaim, "He sounds so sexy! Wait until you hear this!"
And on "Strongest Weakness" she sings with her daughter Bekka Bramlett, who has become a musical sensation in her own right. "It's our first duet on record," Bonnie says. "And she wrote the song we sing, 'Strongest Weakness,' with Gary Nicholson. It rocks!"
After more than 40 years in the public eye, apprenticeships as a backup singer to giants of the blues, collaborations with the greatest stars in rock & roll, appearances as an actress on the small and silver screens, and above all a lifetime marked sometimes by controversy but never marred by compromise, Bramlett ties her story into one Beautiful package, with a message that says all an artist can hope to say about his or her work.
"I'm not making blues records," she sums up. "I'm not making jazz records. I don't fit into a slot. I never have. I don't think about how many records I can sell; that's somebody else's job. For me, the question is bigger: Will I be proud for my kids, or my great-grandkids someday, to hear this? You can't unring that bell, baby. That's why all I can do is to make Bonnie Bramlett records, the best I can."
And then she leans back, her smile warmed by the ironies of experience and informed by the knowledge that, with
Beautiful, she has accomplished that mission, after all.
Bonnie Bramlett - Beautiful - Rockin' Camel Music - Release Date: April 15, 2008
www.RockinCamel.com and www.BonnieBramlett.com
Publicity Contact: Mark Pucci Media (770) 804-9555 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Bonnie Bramlett "Beautiful"
Review by:BluesBytes - Phoenix Blues Society - Graham Clarke
Bonnie Bramlett started her music career as a teenager in the early 60's singing backup for blues performers like Fontella Bass, Little Milton, and Albert King. Later, she became the first and only white Ikette in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Later on, she met Delaney Bramlett (who she would later marry) and formed Delaney & Bonnie, whose electrifying shows prompted Eric Clapton to shed his guitar god status and get back to the basics. The group recorded a few more times before Delaney and Bonnie divorced and she formed the Bonnie Bramlett Band. She released several well-received albums in the 70's before becoming a born-again Christian and turning to gospel music. In the late 80's, she re-emerged as an actress, most notably appearing on Roseanne as co-worker Bonnie for a couple of seasons. After a 20-year absence from the studio, Bramlett returned to the music scene in 2002 with I'm Still the Same, followed by Roots, Blues, & Jazz, showing nary a trace of rust from the layoff.
Bramlett's latest release, on Rockin' Camel Music, is appropriately entitled Beautiful and reunites her with legendary producer Johnny Sandlin, who produced two of Bramlett's best 70's releases (It's Time and Lady's Choice). She's also joined by daughter Bekka, and a veritable Who's Who of southern rock including Bill Stewart on drums, David Hood on bass, Scott Boyer on guitar, Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Randall Bramblett on vocals, keyboards, and sax, Kevin Holly on guitar, James Pennebaker on guitars, dobro, and mandolin, and Kevin McKendree on piano, along with the Muscle Shoals Horn Section.
Bramlett's smoky vocals, along with able support from the band, transform the country tune "Sure Got Away With My Heart" (a hit for country artist John Anderson) into a soulful Stax-like soul nugget. The next cut pairs Bramlett with Randall Bramblett on his slow burner, "Witness For Love." Bramblett also contributes the rowdy "Shake Somethin' Loose," which features harmony vocals from Bramlett's daughter, Bekka, who also joins her for the sinewy rocker, "Strongest Weakness." Bramlett gets jazzy on the after-hours torcher, "It's Gonna Rain All Night," and she delivers a stunning performance of hopelessness and desperation on the title track.
In a first for Bramlett, she blends politics with the music for a couple of tunes, most notably a funky reworking of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth." She tackles intolerance on Gary Cotton's "Some Of My Best Friends," a song she wanted to record for several years, but was unable to until he crossed paths with Sandlin again. She also ventures into gospel territory with a thoughtful cover of Waylon Jennings'
"I Do Believe," Gary Nicholson's "Bless 'em All," and a gorgeous version of Dan Penn's "He'll Take Care Of You," which closes the disc.
Beautiful is a release you'll return to again and again, from an artist who certainly deserves more accolades than she's gotten over the years. Here's hoping we hear more from Bonnie Bramlett soon.
Monday, June 16, 2008
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Bonnie Bramlett "Beautiful"
Review by: Muruch
Hallelujah, Bonnie Bramlett is back on the music scene! My generation probably knows Ms. Bramlett best for her role as the sassy blonde waitress Bonnie on the blue collar sitcom Roseanne?, and younger folks may be familiar with her song "Superstar" as covered by Sonic Youth on the soundtrack? for the movie Juno. Bonnie Bramlett is a powerhouse vocalist with a respected career spanning four decades, most notably as part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and later as one half of Delaney & Bonnie - Eric Clapton was a member of the latter band.
The mellow arrangements of the opening tracks "Sure Got Away With My Heart" and "Witness For Love" are nice, but really don't do Bramlett's robust voice justice. It's the blues flavored rock song "Strongest Weakness" that finally unleashes Bonnie's fiery pipes, as she growls the verses and wails the chorus. Bonnie's daughter Bekka co-wrote and sings on the stand out song, along with providing harmony and backup on several other tracks. Bekka also sang backup on Creed Bratton's latest release and is apparently working on her debut solo album. She's got her momma's throat, so I can't wait to hear it.
The lower key "Beautiful" reaches into the more soulful, emotive depths of Bonnie's voice, and her bluesy funk rendition of "For What It's Worth" is the best cover of the Stephen Stills classic - first recorded by Buffalo Springfield - that I've ever heard. The upbeat rocker "Shake Something Loose" as well as the jazzy torch song "It's Gonna Rain All Night" are other fine settings for Bonnie's sultry vox.
Bramlett says she's being trying to record "Some Of My Best Friends" for years, but no one would touch the song because of the lyrics. The song addresses various kinds of intolerance straight on, and it's a shame that more singers (and producers) don't display such lyrical bravery. Some of the arrangements on the album may seem weak beneath Bonnie's hearty voice, but the lyrics are refreshingly honest in their political and social commentary. The Southern twanger "Bless 'Em All" takes a lighter approach in tackling religious differences.
I would much rather hear the rich, powerful voices of Bonnie Bramlett, Mavis Staples, and Maria Muldaur than the weak chirps of younger pop stars that sadly seem more welcome at most record labels. So kudos to Carl Weaver, the president of Rockin' Camel Music, for being smart enough to sign Bonnie to his label.