Chuck Lee Bramlet | Burn Down Start Over

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Rock: Americana Folk: Alternative Folk Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Burn Down Start Over

by Chuck Lee Bramlet

With all the space of the West, songs ranging from brutally primitive folk-rock to elegantly intimate tone poems. An oasis of expression in a dry, dry landscape.
Genre: Rock: Americana
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Eyes of a Killer
2:43 $0.99
2. Werewolf on my Nightstand
2:21 $0.99
3. Time to Wake Up
3:05 $0.99
4. Love Me
3:30 $0.99
5. I Lost It
3:08 $0.99
6. This River
2:23 $0.99
7. Put Me to the Test
2:52 $0.99
8. Dogs Behaving Badly
3:06 $0.99
9. Contact Insane
3:18 $0.99
10. This Little Hell
3:09 $0.99
11. J.J.
2:14 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
I've recorded this album 4 times, hence the title. Not all songs that are present in the final, but most. After Murder of Crows in 2004, I kept recording original stuff at home, but tracks were either too raw, too fussy, or too overworked, in other words, "dead on arrival."

I was playing bass in Renee Stahl's band at the time, and she invited me to join the song circle, once a month we met and played each other our latest efforts, issuing each other challenges and fulfilling group "assignments".

The writing group included Leslie King of Bardo, Kevin Hunter from Wire Train and Tuesday Night Music Club, Gregg Sarfaty from Stewboss. Others in this group included Gayle Day, Erik Penny, Mike Schmid, Amy Raasch, Alex Davis, Whitney Cline, Korel Tunador, Renee Faia, and Tracy Spuehler. Rich Jacques (later to form Right the Stars) started producing spectacular-sounding tracks for Renee and others in the group, and offered to help. After months of foot-dragging, I said yes.

I had already worked with Aram Arslanian from the band Orphan Train producing on two songs, Dogs Behaving Badly and This River. Aram and his brilliant wife Sarah from the band Ladytown moved away to Portland OR, finally settling in Vancouver WA. I miss them every day.

Once Rich and I started recording, things moved very fast. Tracks were kept very sparse, one or 2 guitars at most, vocals recorded live in a pass or two. One of my favorite things about Rich is, when working, we don't talk that much. If you have a musical idea, play it. It's very hard to bullshit him. I was the slow-down factor in this process. Depression, indecision, lack of will and confidence.

In 1994 I was living in Portland, OR. I was a member of a VERY loud rock band called the Violets. The Violets were co-led by a brilliant songwriting duo Lisa Enterline (now Hayes) and uber-guitarist Cisco DeLuna. We got the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas in March for SXSW. We loaded up our gear into "El Puerco" (a 2 tone, 15 passenger airport Dodge van) and headed south.

I love van touring, because the Violets had a "no recorded music" policy, which helps me write a lot. During the long periods of no driving I had my little college composition notebooks and a pen. I wrote about seven songs on that trip, and Eyes of a Killer is the one that survived. Others from that batch made it onto my first album, "Pook's Road".

The Violets great drummer Jano Janosik (currently playing for Stewboss and Bardo) was a bird expert, and as we passed through the Sacramento delta area I kept seeing these beautiful black birds perched on fenceposts, the only thing breaking the monotony. When I asked him what they were, he said, "It's the red-winged blackbird." Right then one of them took off, revealing beautiful red plumage.

The first line came, and everything else came quickly. This is one of those songs that revealed its meaning to me long after it was created. Many of my writing friends relate the same process. It's like taking dictation. The song is, as it turns out, less about violence or retribution and more about not living as a doormat.

I've forgotten if I used my Guild D-4 or not, sometimes Rich had me use his '67 Gibson J-45. Rich laid down a simple kick and shaker. Vocal, one pass. We had a basic in a pass or two, then bass. I used Rich's jazz bass. After playback we judged things were indeed sturdy.

Then the real fun. We invited Joel Martin down to play pedal steel. I will be dedicating an entire post to Joel later. He was MVP on this record.

Joel is an anomaly on the LA session player scene in that he actually has soul and takes risks. His tracks tend to reveal their genius on repeated listenings. Now I cannot imagine these recordings without him. If you are ever lucky enough to hire this guy, his playing will start to seep into your DNA

He came in with an old tweed Fender Princeton, his new pedal steel, and trusty Les Paul black beauty w/bigsby. We had done this song live once or twice, but not on steel. Joel nailed it, one or two passes, but I think we used the first. On playback, my jaw hit the floor. Listen to the surefooted way he keeps the verses dissonant and brittle, but when the chorus comes, he opens things up like a flower. What an amazing musician.

The song ends prematurely, like a life interrupted. I let a minor sixth ring out with the tonic. Joel threw a beautiful fifth overtone feedback over that. We didn't fuss over it, it just happened.

Song Circle assignment time. Someone suggests we draw names out of a hat. Whoever you draw gets to assign you a "custom" task. I draw Leslie King. She licks her chops (wolflike) and says "Chucky, you have to write a HAPPY song. About your childhood."

Some might observe that I didn't exactly fulfill the assignment. I can't really argue that point. The song isn't exactly happy, but the feelings are honest. I had the werewolf. My parents thought there was something wrong with me. Oh wells.

This was the first track we recorded. We worked at Rich's apt in Hollywood. It was a while ago so details are a bit sketchy.

I had been overworking the song, playing it in a folky, Roger McGuinn-like, Byrdsy drawl. Every time I would try a home recording version I would run it by Amy Raasch, who loved the song. Very politely she would deem each version underwhelming. Back to the drawing board.

Rich Jacques suggested we take a different direction. He set up my guitar to almost feeding back level, and laid down a slamming, balls-to-the-wall drum track. In that setting fancy guitar work just murked things up. Rich said I should strip things down, playing the barest of chord outlines.

A slight diversion. I did a brief stint in Rich's solo project, playing bass. We did a series of live gigs, and I recorded one song on his Right the Stars album, House by the Ocean. As well as a solid songwriter, Rich is quite the gunslinging live guitarist, when the mood is upon him. You should catch him.

Back to recording. With the new, simple-but-loud approach working on the backing track, it was time for lead vocals. I ended up having to shred the vocals a bit so that things matched. We were both really pleased with the result. I took an early mix to Amy. Thumbs up.

This laid the groundwork for the approach to the rest of the album. Endless thanks to Rich for his foresight, and pointing out what I couldn't see; the obvious.

The only co-write on the album, Rich and I cooked this one up.

Guilty pleasure: I am a fan of the BIG DUMB ROCK. True, I love smart writers and smart music, Aimee Mann is it in my book, Leonard Cohen, Red House Painters, John Prine, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Nick Drake get lots of play in my iTunes list, I have a huge collection of Western classical music and jazz, and I even bought and devoured the new They Might Be Giants album for science geeks. (If you laugh because these examples are not sufficiently smart/obscure/hip/geeky enough for you, please email your enlightened listening lists to me at No joke.)

But sometimes only AC/DC, Priest, and The Cult will do. When the Zeppelin remasters came out, I bought the whole thing. I now have every conceivable version of Black Dog on the planet. Sometimes, on the LA freeway, you NEED this stuff cranked up just to get by. If I go overboard and start playing Neurosis while driving, we are all in trouble. Physicality and brute force can be assets.

I wanted to add to this canon. I started playing an idea for a verse. 4 chords. I started to go into a seperate chorus feel, Rich said, "Wait, stay there. Make the chorus and the verse the same." We ended up making the entire song one pattern, changing lights and darks, like Hey Joe, Gloria, 96 Tears.

Obama was running at the time, still with all the promise of "reformer" on him. I wanted the lyrics to be a call to revolution, to enlightenment. But simple.

Rich wanted to use Rob Giles from The Rescues on drums. We knew this track was going to be different. Besides Rob's great one-take basic, the only notes I have on this are Joel Martin's lead guitar and Leslie King's incendiary vocals.

Joel took his lead guitar pass to scorch earth with a cool Frippiness I rarely get to hear. Leslie nailed her vocal, reminding me of Merry Clayton on Gimme Shelter. After more listens than I can imagine, it is still a pleasure to hear her.

Hate to put things off, but I need more distance from this track to do much more than list the players and rave about their contributions. Also invaluable: Brian Yazulka's great mix.

This song had it's start under bogus circumstances. Learned through the Grapevine that LeeAnn Rimes was looking for material. At that time I was still toying with the idea of expanding my craft to write for other artists. I thought a mainstream Nashville player like LeAnn could use some street cred, a closer-to-the-bone personal thing, like George Jones tried to do with "Choices". Never underestimate the power of my delusional mind to get it wrong. Here's the 3 ways I blew it.

1. "Grapevine source" evaporates.
2. I am not a crafty tunesmith.
3. My friend Alissa sets me straight.

1. "Grapevine source" evaporates: Just like that. Turns out LeAnn was not at all looking for outside writers. C'est la Vie.

2. I am not a crafty tunesmith: After attending a couple of Durango Songwriters workshops and seeing and meeting a bunch of writery writers, I found I did not relate so much. The concrete they have to shift around and the connections they nurture and enjoy nurturing seemed outside of my grasp of understanding. The best knowledge I gleaned from Durango was that I am a performer who writes for himself.

3. My friend Alissa sets me straight: I ran the song by the circle, I said I had written the song for a woman to sing. Amazing performer/songwriter/force of nature Alissa Moreno said it was too straightforward, lyrically. Although she loved the song (especially the way Leslie King sang it on the demo), she didn't see it as a woman's song. Rich later concurred, saying it so goes against my type as a performer that I should "cover" it myself. I think it works.

This one went down pretty easily. I wrote in alternate tuning (Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" tuning: CGCFCE), and I believe I used the Guild D4. Single guitar pass and vocal, one take for each, with a fix or two. Rich is such a great engineer that these tasks are never a problem. Having engineered myself many times, it can become a mighty struggle. Rich put down a hypnotic little percussion loop, then bass. Although it's fun to play bass on my own tracks, I love giving it over to Rich, he really is a tasteful and technically perfect player himself.

Joel Martin laid down his pedal steel pass on the same day as his work on Time to Wake Up and Eyes of a Killer. He had never heard this song, but sussed it out quickly and brought it to whole new level. I was worried about the ratio of "down" to "up" songs on the album and this was the first down in the sequence. I think we struck a pretty good balance.

Rich's studio "White Room" is on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Cahuenga, a few stories up. When you are in the vocal room, you are overlooking Hotel Cafe, Popeye's Fried Chicken and a Pizza Joint. Some interesting transactions and interactions are going on out there, but I don't find it distracting. I love that Rich and Richard Furch leave the windows open. It feels like a really safe and protected environment to do vocals in.

These writings are excepts from my blog:



to write a review

Anne Rossmore

One great record
This is such a good record. It breaks my heart, and then a note or a word later It fills me with joy. I could go on and on but the simple truth is: Chuck Lee Bramlet is a true artist and I love this album. I can't wait for the next one. Thank you Chuck Lee.

renee faia

I'm convinced Chuck Lee Bramlet is a Werewolf.
His music and especially his lyrics are incredibly evocative and make me think of all things nocturnal.
Darkly virtuous, his stories are full of intrigue. His voice, rough on the edges, is a vessel that transports deep into the hidden shadows. A trip worth taking.