Review: Soul man Bramblett gives average folks a voice

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This cover image released by New West Records shows “Pine Needle Fire” by Randall Bramblett. (New West Records via AP)

On “Pine Needle Fire,” Georgia soul man Randall Bramblett’s warm, weathered tenor gives voice to average folks who are hanging on, and he provides a beat to keep them going.

Bramblett laments mortality, the rat race, co-dependency and misplaced passion. His solution? Dance those blues away.

Nearly everything comes with an irresistible groove, as has been the case for most of Bramblett’s 45-year recording career. He and his crack crew of studio musicians do swampy, sweaty, Southern-fried funk, and like a great bar band they’re both loose and tight, while riding a gospel undercurrent. The chorus to the opening tune, “Some Poor Soul,” echoes “Amazing Grace,” and there are several songs of secular inspiration.

Nick Johnson contributes stinging guitar, and horns — including Bramblett’s tenor sax — add momentum. The result is a succession of toe-tappers and hip-shakers with singalong chorus.

“Built to Last” lives up to its title, thanks to a six-note rock riff as its foundation. “Rocket to Nowhere” swings with Steely Dan-style syncopation, references “Kid Charlemagne” and serves up a Fagen-esque aside: “At least they didn’t look in the glove compartment.”

Imagine a world where musicians play concerts: These songs would have folks on their feet.