Singer/Guitarist Has Second RCA Set, Doubles Up On Clapton Tour

LOS ANGELES-RCA Records sees bright possibilities for its new album by Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack, Welcome, due Tuesday (5), thanks in large measure to Bramhall's recent work with such luminaries as B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Roger Waters.

The Texas-born singer/guitarist is continuing his association with Clapton this summer, as both the opening act on the guitar legend's U.S. tour and as a featured guest during Clapton's own sets.

Though Bramhall had already made his mark as a phenom on the Austin, Texas, club scene and as a member of the '90s DGC act Arc Angels (which also featured fellow guitar ace Charlie Sexton, now with Bob Dylan's band), his profile rose dramatically during 1999 and 2000 tours with ex-Pink Floyd member Waters.

Bramhall says he was recommended by producer Patrick Leonard, who helmed Waters' 1992 album Amused to Death.

"Roger was looking for someone to play guitar and sing and do a lot of the Pink Floyd songs in his set for a large show," Bramhall recalls. "He asked Patrick, and he said he only knew of one person, and he thought it was me. He heard my [self-titled 1996] record [for DGC], and he thought I'd be really great for playing that part. "He basically called me up and said, 'Make a demo of "Comfortably Numb" and send it to Roger,' which I did. I ended up making a really fantastic demo. I pretty much got the job as soon as he heard it. He called me personally and said, 'All right, you're the guy. Let's do this thing.'"

Clapton-whose guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low was also in Waters' touring group-became interested in Bramhall after receiving a copy of Bramhall's 1999 RCA debut Jellycream from the musician's manager, Scooter Weintraub ofW Management.

Bramhall recalls, "He called me and said he loved the record and he wanted to possibly get together and work on his record together or possibly cover a couple of my songs from the Jellycream record. So when I got back off tour with Roger, I went over to his house and played a little guitar, and talked for a while. He invited me to the studio and I pretty much jumped right into the studio."

Bramhall ended up contributing two songs (published by Wirzma Publishing, administered by Bug Music, BMI) to last year's Clapton-B.B. King collaboration Riding With the King (Duck/Reprise/Warner Bros.) and also appeared on that best-selling set.

The guitarist subsequently became a core member of the studio band that cut Clapton's recent Reprise solo set Reptile. "Superman Inside," co-authored by Clapton, Bramhall, and Bramhall's wife/bandmate, Susannah Melvoin, appears on the latter album and became its first single.

Off the road, Bramhall co-produced his muscular sophomore set with Benmont Tench, keyboardist of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, and Jim Scott, whose recent production and engineering credits include work with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine.

His Jellycream touring unit- Melvoin, bassist Chris Bruce, and drummer J.J. Johnson-solidified into the recording unit for Welcome.
"I'd been trying to do it as a solo artist for a long time, since I broke up with the Arc Angels," says Bramhall (who is booked by Monterey, Calif. -based Chip Hooper at Monterey Peninsula Artists). "When I did get back with the Arc Angels to do a reunion show, I remembered how much fun it was just being in a band."
Bramhall credits his extensive recent touring work with established stars as a major contributor to the vitality of Welcome. He says, "There were a lot of elements that were key in making this record sound as good as it does, and I'm sure that having the influence of Eric Clapton, playing with him so much over the past year-and-a-half, and also playing with Roger, and being around great songwriters and great musicians of that caliber-it just rubbed off."

New parenthood will not stand in the way of Smokestack's upcoming activities. Though Melvoin gave birth to the couple's first child, daughter India Willa Bramhall, April 21, she'll still be taking to the stage.

The new father says, "Our plan is to have her rest for about five or six weeks, get her bearings together, and then get [her] on the road on the second leg of the Eric Clapton tour."

Bramhall's upcoming roadwork includes a May 10 gig in Dallas, with the trek wrapping up June 22 in Madison Square Garden. A second leg kicks off July 17 in St. Paul/Minneapolis and goes through Aug. 17 at the Staples Center in L.A.

The album's leadoff track, "Green Light Girl," has been selected as the first single. "We're taking a straight-up shot at album rock radio," says Hugh Surratt, senior VP of artist development/creative at RCA.

"We've shot a video that we will target initially for MTV 2 for 'Green Light Girl,' " he continues. "The sound of 'Green Light Girl' is certainly not a blues or older-sounding piece of music. It's an aggressive track that we think lays the groundwork to build upon in a younger demographic."

TV and press will also be part of the promotional picture, Surratt says. "You'll see some really good television shots on Doyle, performing on some of the late-night shows. As the picture builds, you're going to see a really wide range of press ranging from GQ, because of his looks, to the usual suspects, such as the guitar magazines, and even Rolling Stone. We want to paint a broad perspective on Doyle that doesn't just isolate him in the classic rock world."