After spending years as Eric Clapton's musical right-hand man, Doyle Bramhall II has reached a point in his career where he's not trying to prove himself. In his first album for the Mascot record label, Shades is a platform for Bramhall to express himself as a multi-instrumentalist and producer. On this new musical journey, he incorporates personal themes and even takes on gun violence in the lead single Love and Pain. From an artistic perspective the album takes in R&B, blues, rock, soul and even world music on the haunting and progressive, Parvanah.
Given his pedigree, there are several guest stars on the album too. Old Slow Hand himself makes an appearance on Everything You Need adding a blues edge to the track. Searching For Love is a stylish duet between Bramhall and Norah Jones with the piano and guitar emoting what their hankering vocals cannot.
Life on the road is hinted at on the atmospheric London to Tokyo that oscillates between smooth orchestral arrangements and the rolling guitar grooves. The Night represents many of the tracks on the album which have ever altering musical patterns. The song also boasts a killer chorus and the heartfelt kind of soul that's often attempted by pop stars but seldom achieved. The track's tonal partner is the final track, Going Going Gone (ft Tedeshi Trucks Band). It feels like Prince's Purple Rain is having a love-in with a traditional spiritual song. Crammed with textured instrumentation, from rousing backing vocals, horns and a pining guitar, making an uplifting track to end on.
Bramhall's album output has been patchy, to say the least over the last two decades, with fans waiting 15 years for his 2016 album, Rich Man. As an in-demand writer and producer he's spent most of his career working with other artists and helping them to manifest their creative visions; this time around he's dedicated his time to realising his own.
Groupie Rating 4/5