On the surface, Randall Bramblett’s music can’t help but reflect a summery disposition. Some of the songs enforcing that sentiment during his sublime, two set performance at Natasha’s last night dealt with escape. Open air tunes, if you like. You heard it as the music ran down the South Georgia backroads, even with heartbreak at bay, during Blue Road. The mood was just as vivid when Bramblett and his muse hit the highway for the swing, soul and sass of Get In Get Out.
Both tunes, highlights of Bramblett’s second set, rock heartily in their recorded versions with shades of jazz, pop and scholarly funk. That dynamic is echoed whenever Bramblett plays with his full band, where the songsmith juggles duties on keyboards, guitar and saxophone. Last night, though, the music was pared down to a two guitar setting.
Bramblett’s songs typically get darker as you hit their respective centers. And in this sparse, acoustic set up – aided greatly by bits of blues and Southern guitar grace from Mike Hines – lyrics were illuminated with understated and often elegant color.
The passing spirits on Fading, for example, heralded an impending loss that was altogether human. “The more I see you fading,” Bramblett sang in scratchy, conversational resignation, “the more I want to see you clear.”
Even more telling was Stupid Shoes (which, like Fading, came from Bramblett’s 2006 album, Rich Someday). Here, Bramblett referenced his late friend and road manager Stuart Collins because “Stuart always hated this song.” The reason, Bramblett surmised, was the tune’s enveloping but unassuming darkness.
Musically, two lone guitars handled the evening quite capably. End of the String, with its roadhouse ready, slide savvy guitar breaks, remained richly propulsive. Also, Used to Rule World (one of four tunes performed from Bramblett’s new Now It’s Tomorrow album) exhibited a neatly internalized funk feel while a thoroughly de-funkified God Was in the Water retained a dark spiritual cast with a regally disparaging mantra for a chorus (“castin’ out a line but no one’s biting”).
Still, the quiet moments – with the beautifully battered Disappearing Ink topping the list – carried the program. Too bad the dinner chatter at Natasha’s was so intrusive in such instances. For a nicely expanded venue that has successfully (and frequently) created a performance space focused enough for live theatre to thrive, it fell short of equally honoring music that required a similar sense of attention and quiet.