For more than three decades, Randall Bramblett has fashioned stories of great emotive detail and rich Southern imagery into songs infused with generous but unforced accents of R&B, jazz and almost sagely rock and soul.
But he was looking for a shake-up on his new The Bright Spots album, which brings Bramblett back to Lexington for a Sunday concert at Natasha’s. No, he wasn’t looking to change his musical game entirely. The veteran Georgia songsmith simply wanted to keep from repeating himself on record.
The themes and narratives of his songs are continually new. But Bramblett was determined the grooves and orchestrations under his newest writings needed to sound equally fresh.
“I didn’t want anything that sounded like what I’ve done before,” Bramblett said. “Plus, I had these songs that were a little more bluesy sounding. But I certainly didn’t want to make a straight-ahead blues record.
“I don’t go into a recording with a specific idea of how I want my songs to sound. On The Meantime (Bramblett’s piano-dominate 2010 album), I did. I went in with an idea of wanting that to be a really quiet acoustic piano record. But I wanted this one to go where it needed to go and let the whole thing evolve.”
Two songs in particular are striking examples of the songs making up The Bright Spots.
Detox Bracelet tells the story of a recovering alcoholic torn between the possibilities of a new life and the fleeting lure of the old one he is fighting to leave. It is a story filled with detractors, revelers and enablers, and it’s topped with elegant band orchestration that gives the song a beautifully wistful quality.
“I was just thinking about a person who is in treatment, who feels horrible, whose life is falling apart. He hears a train go by and thinks that maybe all his fun and freedom is gone, too. He’s on the edge of wanting to go back out but hasn’t realized there is another life for him if he can just pick up the tools he has been given. It’s a yearning and grieving for your old life and your old fantasy, really. It’s a balancing on the edge of disaster. That knife edge attracted me.”
The other is All is Well, a leaner, darker, noir-style meditation.
“The overall feeling there is just acceptance. Everything is the way it’s supposed to be right now. So it comes across with a blues feeling, too. But there is always that question mark in that kind of feeling for me. I don’t like to write these straight ahead message songs. The singer in this one has to give up all his ideas about what is good and bad within the things that are happening to him. He has to give up all his judgments, his prophecies and predictions. It’s a song about accepting everything the way that it is.”
It’s a stance that could be viewed as being somewhat reflective of Bramblett’s career. Artists like Steve Winwood and Bonnie Raitt have long championed his music. But Bramblett’s own reputation, especially outside the South, continues to establish itself in slow, incremental steps.
“It’s still a little bit frustrating that we can’t get heard in a broader arena. You deal with radio and the reality of the record business. You deal with the reality of our age group and getting people to come out to hear you. So we’re doing as good as we can. All is well.”
Randall Bramblett Band performs at 8 p.m. July 14 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $20. Call (859) 259-2754 or go to Beetnik.com.