While Randall Bramblett might not be a household name, he is legendary within music circles for his songwriting and musicianship. He released a pair of acclaimed solo albums in the mid-’70s, then joined the jazz-rock outfit Sea Level, becoming their principal songwriter and vocalist. From there, Bramblett embarked on a path as a big-league, musical utility man (primarily sax and keys) and landed on the speed dial of some of the greatest names in rock history, including Traffic, Steve Winwood, Levon Helm and Bonnie Raitt. In fact, just a list of those who Randall has performed or recorded with is so impressive tat little more needs to be said: Sea Level, Chuck Leavell, Greg Allman, Levon Helm, Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic, Steve Winwood, Traffic, Gov’t Mule, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Bonnie Bramlett, Roger Glover, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Cowboy, Elvin Bishop, Goose Creek Symphony, John Hammond, Warren Haynes, Robbie Robertson, Johnny Jenkins, Jerry Joseph, Jan Krist, Francine Reed, Vigilantes of Love, String Cheese Incident… whew! And, wow!
Bramblett “grew up playing soul music” in Jesup, Georgia. His hero was James Brown, but he also had a lot of Ray Charles and some jazz influences. Growing up in Southeast Georgia, nature loomed large in his life, particularly the swamps around the Altamaha River. To Bramblett, the swamps represented something mystical, filling him with wonder and awe, while fueling his interest in his own spirituality.
After high school, Bramblett studied religion and psychology at the University of North Carolina, and for most of his time there, he planned to attend a seminary upon graduation. But by his senior year, inspired by the likes of James Taylor and Carole King, he began to try his hand at songwriting. The results were good enough for him to abandon his seminary plans after graduation and move to Athens to further pursue music.
Another major influence on Bramblett’s songwriting was Bob Dylan and he attributes rock’s poet laureate with opening a new lyrical path for him. “I think he freed songwriters from feeling obliged to make strict literal sense. He expanded the boundaries of popular songs and that probably gave me permission to explore that, too.”
Two of the songs on Randall’s Now It’s Tomorrow CD, “Some Mean God” and “Where A Life Goes,” deal with absences and losses, while some of Bramblett’s compositions are peopled by characters who would seem right at home in a Southern gothic novel. The best example of this is “Mess About It,” in which “People down in Mobile / Live in a silver box / They make trouble everywhere they go / They got history you don’t want to know.” But the past-their-prime people in “Used To Rule The World,” like “Miss South Carolina 1975 / Somebody stole your crown,” possess similar tragicomic qualities. And when he sings about these various people in his soulful, raspy voice, the listener is transported to another time and place, much as a reader is transported while reading a Faulkner novel.
“The songs on this record come out of a very rich time in my life,” Bramblett says. “We’ve had losses, we’ve had births. My home is in a beautiful place in nature. I look out and I feel grateful and amazed and inspired and sad and joyful all at the same time.”
Chuck Leavell, who has played with The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers, says “Randall is in my opinion the most gifted & talented southern singer-songwriter musician of the past several decades.” When you think of
some of the southern singer-songwriters who have found fame in that time period– some of whom have found their way to Sundilla– you realize that this is high praise indeed.