Drawing on his roots, this oozes the essence of the South
Label: Ain’t Skeert Tunes
Time: 12 Tracks / 41 minutes
I first came across Bratcher not long ago on YouTube. He was playing some impressively funky guitar on a TV show with a house band that included Mark Gungor. He’s a bona fide preacher too, so I was looking forward to a hot combination of raw blues-based music that did something to my spirit.
When it arrived, Secretly Famous sounded much smoother and with more everyday subject matter. Unlike previous releases, he has moved the centre of this collection away from directly addressing faith. Opening it up to anyone who wants to join in, he says that he wrote these songs for “people like me: people that hurt, that love, that laugh, people who need to forget their troubles and enjoy life.” The reason he gives for the disc being different is,”I went further back into my roots than on any of my other albums, back to a time before I became ‘The Rev.’ – back to the blues-rock root.”
That guitar-based core shows through. Secretly Famous has a carefree blues feel and what strikes me immediately is how you can’t stand still to the opener “Jupiter and Mars” (co-written with his son). Its funk drives the sort of groove that you can only play if you ‘get’ guitar from deep inside.
Bratcher has written ten of the dozen songs here and several stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the covers. The latter are “Tobacco Road” and – displaying how his vocals are as gut driven as his guitar playing – a lovely, slow, deep-from-the-heart account of “Never My Love”. But ask a stranger which songs are the classics and you might easily get plenty of guesses that “When I Fall Apart” is a cover, or “It Just Feels Right” – as appropriate a song title as I have ever heard.
Jim Gaines (Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Journey) has produced Bratcher for the second time and he lets Bratcher’s natural emotions shine through, while keeping the music tight. The band includes Craig Kew on bass, from Kerry Livgren’s Proto Kaw; Pillar’s Lester Estelle, Jr. on drums and discreet keyboards from studio staple Rick Steff (whose father played trumpet on “In the Ghetto”, Dusty in Memphis and “Shaft” among others). The line-up also features a few classic guitars and that Gibson tone.
Bits from all over the South pop up here: a little Allman Brothers in the guitar work; a rich bluesiness in its spirit; jabbing funk from time to time, and a soulfulness that’s been shaken out all over the disc. Not every track is a classic, but each one is played and produced with class.