Doyle Bramhall II is one of the most distinctive vocalists, guitarists, composers, and producers in contemporary music. Indeed, none other than Eric Clapton, with whom Bramhall has worked for more than a decade, lauds him as one of the most gifted guitarists he has ever encountered.
As the son of the late Texas music legend Doyle Bramhall, the young Doyle was raised in a home filled with the blues and rock-and-roll styles indigenous to Texas. The elder Bramhall played drums and was also an accomplished songwriter and vocalist, not to mention a lifelong collaborator with childhood friends Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmie Vaughan, who composed such Stevie Ray Vaughan signature tunes as “Change It” and “Life by the Drop.”
But the younger Bramhall—a rare and distinctive guitarist who plays left-handed, but with his instrument strung for a right-hander and flipped backwards—had his own connections with the Vaughan brothers. Early in his career, he was befriended and supported by Stevie. When he was eighteen, Bramhall was recruited by Jimmie to play with the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
After Stevie’s tragic death in 1990, Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton formed the Arc Angels with Stevie Ray’s fabled Double Trouble rhythm section of drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon.
The Arc Angels’ self-titled debut album yielded such widely popular songs as “Living in a Dream” and “Sent by Angels” before disbanding. Introducing himself as a solo artist in 1996 with Doyle Bramhall II, he followed with a pair of critically acclaimed albums, Jellycream (1999) and Welcome (2001). It was then that Bramhall’s unparalleled guitar mastery won the attention not only of Clapton but Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who showcased him on his 1999, 2000, and 2002 In the Flesh concert tours and companion CD and DVD.
Clapton, meanwhile, came next. He featured Bramhall songs and guitar as part of his Grammy-winning Riding with the King (2000) album with B. B. King. Clapton then recruited Bramhall full-time, and they toured together worldwide, thrilling fans with their dramatic guitar interplay and drawing comparisons to past Clapton successful bands such as Derek and the Dominoes. Clapton’s ensuing 2004 albums, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J, both showcased stirring Clapton-Bramhall guitar duets recorded in the same Dallas room where Robert Johnson recorded his classic blues songs in 1937. Bramhall’s own songwriting talent was highlighted in Clapton’s Reptile (2001), Back Home (2005), and The Road to Escondido (2006) albums, and he later coproduced Clapton (2010) and Old Sock (2013). In 2013, he again joined Clapton on his fiftieth anniversary tour and played on his 2014 album, The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale.
In addition to his work with Clapton, Bramhall became an in-demand composer, guitarist, and producer. He enjoyed high-profile collaborations as producer with a broad range of other major artists, including T-Bone Burnett, Elton John, Gary Clark Jr., Gregg Allman, Dr. John, Robert Randolph, Allen Toussaint, Billy Preston, Erykah Badu, Questlove, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Sheryl Crow, for whom he contributed songs and produced 100 Miles from Memphis (2011) and performed on her tour supporting it. In 2015, he teamed up with ace Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks (with whom he was proclaimed as one of “The New Guitar Gods” by Guitar World when both served in Clapton’s band in the late 2000s) in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, also starring Trucks’s wife, Susan Tedeschi. Bramhall’s songs and guitar playing have graced each of the three critically acclaimed Tedeschi Trucks Band albums issued to date.
Doyle Bramhall II is a musician’s musician. The go-to guitar slinger, songwriter, vocalist and producer has worked with an extraordinary roster of artists including Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Erykah Badu and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But now he’s putting the focus back on his own music.
He takes what he has learned and pulls it all together into a harmonious new form that shows where it has come from and yet stands there proud for all to hear.