Michael Bram's been best known for his touring drumwork beneath Jason Mraz, so it comes as more than a small surprise to find he's also a singer, guitarist, harp-slinger, and composer of considerable powers. Suitcase in the Hall reveals a warmly funky slo-chug side of country and country blues not seen very often anywhere, past or present, whether in swozzled N'Awleans bordello swing, dark laconic near-shouters, or Keith Richards-styled chord wallowing primality. The gent's as capable of melancholicly fuzzy covers with mile-deep resonances (Got Love if You Want It) as gut rumble somnambo-stumblers (Watch Out!, with some spine-tinglingly sassy lead work from Chris Vitarello) and more besides. Unsurprisingly, he also served as musical director for Mraz, and the arrangements here nicely show just what that means.
Bram's recent engagements have included work with Willie Nelson, John Popper, Joss Stone, and a number of top drawer estimables, all of whom recognize his letter perfect blending of classic old sounds with modern nuances and swaths of Americana, but what impresses me most is the uncanny finesse the guy has with slow tempos. Drinking Champagne, for instance, brings together several genres while sticking to a balladic baseline that's waltzily seductive amid clever sardonic lyrics sung through a whiskey glass well into a South Seas balmy midnight. The closer, Can I Sleep in Your Arms, is even slower and rings through like a romantic Auld Lang Syne just when the Jagermeister's kicking in. Favorite cut? Sorry, there are too many really good songs here 'cause Bram's a quintuple threat and is, trust me, going places, and very very soon. He has that unnamable something that compels everyone, pro and layman alike, to sit down and listen.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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