John Bramwell sparkles at Leicester gig. 5/5

Marvin and Fiona Phythian @ The Musician

From the moment he surreptitiously sneaked through the audience, Bramwell appears as a consummate singer-songwriter at incredible ease with his surroundings within Leicester’s famous venue - The Musician.

Although not always mentioned in the folk scene due to his Indie roots a conversation needs to be had about how good Bramwell really is.  It is this writers view that John Bramwell must surely be considered one of the great English folk singer songwriters even if he is seen as more indie by some. In my mind John Bramwell is somewhere between the celebrated mainstays of McTell,  Bragg and Stewart and the legends Thompson, Martin and Drake. From the off his fingerstyle dexterity, and strength and character of his voice shine through the venue in what was a magical acoustic set.  Bramwell knows he's good  - not so much with arrogance, but more like a child who’s just accomplished the first of many wheelies on his Raleigh Burner. The show’s feeling of contentment and his stage banter was first class with several moments of pure hilarity.

john bramwell jools holland

His I am Kloot work speaks for itself, from the McCartneyesque To You, the ever questioning From your Favourite Sky, the gritty Morning rain, the sublime and soothing Northern Skies, the beautiful alcohol fuelled Life In A Day and then comes along the lullaby like No Fear of Falling and every single one feels like a Tour de force in Song writing and performance, it’s one man and a guitar all killer no filler.

Yet his solo work sits perfectly alongside his Kloot pieces. Sat Beneath the Lightening Tree takes you on a celestial ride of moon’s on pedestals and stars with that bright yet melancholic and nostalgic feel I associate with John. He sings 'let us take a walk' which is exactly what he does to the listener, as his storytelling swings from thoughts and feeling to descriptive backdrops of what he sees. From the Shore, Who Is Anybody and the album title track Leave Alone the Empty Spaces are all songs filled with touches of profundity, surrealism and maybe a little bit of sly but just as inviting as anything else on the setlist.

John is clearly a deep thinking, thoughtful writer with songs that explore the question of life, a search for meaning perhaps in a typical romantic paradigm  playing with a paradox between love and tragedy. You get great guitarists, great vocalists and great songwriters getting both is a bonus, all three is the jackpot. 

Bramwell is a left hander who plays a right handed guitar but perhaps the secret to the Hyde man’s talent is his heart which leads to such unabashed authenticity, watching him is a window to his soul.  This is not an act or at least if it is his character is an ageless romantic from a Shakespearean romantic tragedy and he’s been to the Sir John Gielgud school for acting.

john bramwell jools holland

I know COVID scuppered John as it has many artists but why I’ve not seen him on his own on Jools Holland or headlining Folk Festivals or bigger is a mystery to me. By all accounts John Bramwell and the Full Harmonic Convergence where on another level to Fairport Convention at Castleton Peak Cavern. I saw Juno award winning Canadian singer songwriter Julian Taylor at the Musician sometime ago and he was fantastic. Mercury award nominee John Bramwell however is my current second to none.

I saw Pearl Jam perform Neil Young's Keep on Rockin the Free World in front of a sell out crowd at Hyde Park last year. It was their stand out track of an underwhelming performance that night. Yet when Bramwell beautifully plays and sings Blackbird it seems almost out of place because as good as it is, you know his own songs come from his heart and his mind, he doesn't need to be Paul McCartney.  Some artists even Pearl Jam need the odd cover song, Bramwell does not.

John Bramwell is touring on his own at selected dates until the end of the year. But next year he is travelling with The Full Harmonic Convergence, so if you want to hear him with Cello, keys and percussion get your tickets here.

John’s current album  Leave alone the empty spaces is available from River Soar Records here.

Older Post