Doyle Bramhall | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Doyle Bramhall has been a drummer for more than 30 years, but his recent solo debut, Bird Nest on the Ground (Antones), proves that at heart he's really a singer. For years a regular around Austin and Dallas, he's worked intermittently with Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan--he's written or cowritten a bunch of songs recorded by the latter--and recorded and/or played with, among others, Lou Ann Barton, Marcia Ball, and Zuzu Bollin. Yet only now is he getting the attention he deserves. A throaty, passionate, soul-drenched vocalist in the mold of fellow Texan Doug Sahm, Bramhall boasts a thoroughly gritty and emotion-soaked delivery, but he curbs it where others leap into the realms of the overwrought. And unlike most white blues singers, he rides his music's largely shuffle rhythms perfectly, sitting tightly in the pocket-- which is where his experience as a drummer surely comes in. His tub-slapping mirrors his singing by laying off the beat where most modern blues drummers stand right on it, pounding away with no subtlety. As for accompaniment, Bramhall's album shows he clearly prefers understated, raw playing; there's generous solo space given, but the guitarists eschew rock-infected excesses. He's playing the first night of FitzGerald's 13th annual American Music Festival; the evening's other highlight is a creative booking coup that places NRBQ on the same bill as that band's original guitarist, Steve Ferguson, and his quirky Midwest Creole Ensemble. Thursday, June 30, 7:15 and 8:45 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alan Messer.

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