The Meantime (10th Anniversary Edition)
This marks the tenth anniversary of Randall Bramblett’s “piano trio” album, The Meantime, which New West is commemorating with remastered versions, two previously unreleased tracks, and a vinyl issue for the first time. The album is one that is rather criminally under-recognized in Bramblett’s catalog but a real-tour-de-force. It’s a quiet respite from his ground-breaking work with the jazz-fusion group Sea Level or as a long-running sideman for Traffic or the Allmans, or even from most of his own solo work, the latest being 2017’s Juke Joint on the Edge of the World. It’s an unvarnished look at Bramblett the songwriter demonstrating his inherent gifts for melody and soulful vocal delivery. As the title suggests, it’s a pause as if to look around, gather one’s senses and get a grip of what’s come before and what lies ahead.
The dozen, now 14 tracks, come from all periods of his career. He just found the space to render them in unhurried fashion. Bramblett states, “The Meantime reflected my need at the time to record a quiet and beautiful record with grand piano, upright bass and drums. I had all these songs, old and new, that were never going to fit into the guitar based records I had been making. Most importantly, subject matter of love, grief and yearning needed a lot of space and we dedicated ourselves to keeping the production very simple. I think we did a good job giving these songs what they needed to shine.”
Gleaning the titles like “Disconnected,” “End of the Line,” “The Grand Scheme of Things,” “Sacred Harmony” and “You Think You Know Someone” point to existential, contemplative fare – a restless spirit, a yearning for what’s ahead after the last failed relationship, or a need to expel bad memories in a cathartic way. He uses plenty of spaces in the music to further accentuate these thoughtful states of mind. You’ll hear this across several different subjects whether it’s the couple “Driving to Montgomery” to revisit the past or remembering being in church in “Sacred Harmony.”
Although primarily a trio with long-time cohort Gerry Hansen on drums and percussion with Chris Enghauser’s upright bass, there are a few added flourishes. The rhythm tandem does a great job of finding the balance between a slow pace and brighter tempo that breathes just enough soul. Amy Carlson on violin and viola with Cora Kuyvenhoven on cello add a lush ambience. There’s full horn section on “End of the Line” and a gospel choir on “Driving to Montgomery” and harmonies on the title track. Yet, all accompanists essentially frame Bramblett’s wonderful piano playing and naturally warm, emotive vocals, that often have his range extending impressively into the high register.
The two previously unreleased tracks are “Vibrating Strings,” a metaphor he uses for his life as he expresses a need to let go (‘Gonna let em fly”); and the poignant love song “I Will Be For You.” They are every bit as good as the dozen originals, both done in trio format and depicting the essence of what Bramblett was going for in this gorgeous recording.
- Jim Hynes