John Bramwell has been a fixture in the UK entertainment firmament for decades and is best known as a member in the Alternative Rock trio I Am Kloot. On February 2, 2018, he released his debut solo album, “Leave Alone the Empty Spaces”. This delightful folk recording provides the listener with a much-needed break from the hurly-burly of our modern world. The recording emphasizes the sheer delight of quiet introspection surrounded by nature.
Leave Alone the Empty Spaces was inspired by Bramwell’s meandering journey through the United Kingdom and Europe with his dog, Henry. This trip off the beaten path into the empty spaces that still exist in our world provided Bramwell with grist for his creative mill. What results is a recording of his intimidate journey with his own inner dialogue as his companion, making for deeply personal and transcendent insight. Also recorded are encounters with interesting people from every walk of life. These encounters impact the sonics, themes and lyrics of the album. The majority of the tracks shine a spotlight on Bramwell’s acoustic guitar play delivering a definite folk feel. The sonic is best described as sparse instrumentation but always filled with evocative emotion.
The album launches with an instrumental piece, A Field Full of Secrets. There is a feeling of infinity with delicate piano and crisp well-honed tonal notes. In many ways, the selection reminds me of Sufjan Stevens et.al 2017 work “Planetarium.” The folksy acoustic track Who is Anybody? has a definite Nick Drake vibe as it questions how society measures the worth of any individual and how old standards of measuring up the worth of an individual have been erased through relativism and rationalization. The result is that we demand so little of our modern idols, setting our standards low. Who is Anybody? is an introspective and thought producing song. The Dylanesque vocal on Time’s Arrow makes for an arresting tune. The song speaks to memory’s tricks and how time dances to its own dictates, “daydreams break the tethers while you sleep.” Where the first couple of tracks are slow tempo songs, From the Shore gets a full band treatment and is more energetic with a Beatles musical sensibility. The winsome waltz rhythm assists in pondering the meditative effects of encountering the ocean. Sat Beneath the Lightning Tree returns to the acoustic approach with a classic balladeer structure. The song touts the beauty of nature and builds in drama with the effective use of orchestral treatments and a wondrous horn section.
The uplifting beauty of The Whippoorwill is enthralling with a narrative about the gloaming time and the sounds of the Whippoorwill making a memorial to the setting sun. This song is so delicate it feels like it could drift away on a zephyr. The title track Leave Alone the Empty Spaces again is filled with inherent uplift as it makes a plea for the necessity of these wild lonely places. It suggests that it is our encounters with these places that keep the world in equilibrium. The final track, Meet at the Station returns to a Dylanesque vibe with Arlo Guthrie tossed in. Here the wandering narrator extols that desire to explore that is still not too far below the surface in all of us. Bramwell makes the observation that we are all, in fact, the solitary sojourner of our own life path. This mellow closer leaves the listener desiring more material.
Leave Alone the Empty Spaces is an amuse bouche of a recording. With a less than 30 minutes run time it a succinct release that is encapsulated in solemn beautiful accompaniments. Overall the release feels like it is lit from within. There is no bombast just earnest emotion. It is Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” without the depression. Leave Alone the Empty Spaces may not be to every Alternative genre admirer’s taste but it is a worthy Sunday Morning companion that will leave the listener desiring to take a walk into the quiet wood. As with a culinary amuse bouche, this small serving leaves you anticipating the main course as provided by John Bramwell.