Keith B. Brown: Delta Soul


Sign in to view read count
Keith B. Brown: Delta Soul Delta Soul has interesting notes, in terms of both music and liner commentary. Like the various much older, now gone bluesmen he emulates, Keith B. Brown took up guitar on the side, though the side of a college education, majoring in history. Like old bluesmen he played what was around to be heard, but like the people responsible for the blues revival which began forty years back, he realised there was a lot more to a few things which normal channels let him hear only a little of. So he took that seriously.

Blues, as the late English critic Eddie Lambert observed, isn't pre-jazz, pre-rock, or pre-anything. It's blues. Forty years of "the future of the blues" has been a succession of modish dilutions into pap pop. This isn't what Brown wants, but in the (verbal) notes he expresses his wish that blues included more variety... well, a little more history would have told him bluesmen seldom stuck exclusively to blues. Hack work apart, some played marginal stuff of independent interest which didn't muddle their specialised blues techniques. Some played hack work on all fours with local make-do musicians, but played blues brilliantly when persuaded that was what was wanted.

Brown crosses the margin with three (all self-penned) guitar-accompanied songs and one unaccompanied song, "Niggers and Rednecks," musically on the gospel side, like "All I Need," which has some nice guitar sliding—though the words concern more a young lady than Brown's heavenly home. "Who's to Blame" is 1960s folk revival, the poorest performance; "Didn't Come Today" is standard gentle singer-songwriter fare, which does raise an issue regarding Brown's "Illinois Blues" and "Me and the Devil," intelligently reconceived from the original vocal and guitar masterpieces by Skip James (depicted by Brown as an actor in the Scorsese/Wenders film The Soul Of A Man) and Robert Johnson (Brown had the role of another master represented here, Son House, in the Johnson biopic) respectively.

As a guitarist in his young prime, Skip James swung! At slow tempos where it's nearly impossible, dammit, he swung! He was a fabulous player, and Brown does well with his music (much transcribed long ago by Stefan Grossman) and even James's vocal idiom (local to Bentonia, Mississippi, recorded also by Jack Owens). But a legitimate, maybe necessary criticism of "Illinois Blues" and "Devil" is that the guitar parts somewhat lack a rhythmic profile. Brown has worked out the music better than fine, but his playing lapses into slack folkiness at times. Not dreadfully, and not so you'd notice in a context only of his immediate contemporaries. But he should listen to early Big Joe Williams—and Louis Armstrong!

Brown's other House and James numbers are pretty good, but Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Easy Rider" is a masterpiece, the musical identity of Jefferson's composition all there, but in a Mississippi idiom up with the best old guys. On House's "Shetland Pony" the guitar part is like a more rollicking Fred McDowell, on whose own "Callin' Me" Brown's personal combination on guitar of McDowell, House, James, and others is moving and powerful very differently from McDowell himself.

It was high time fate allowed some young member of the Mississippian diaspora to play—generally very well and sometimes brilliantly—songs his grandmother (see the liner notes) knew, connecting family memory and experience into very superior music.

Track Listing: Death Letter Blues; Hard Time Killing Floor Blues; All I Need; Didn't Come Today; Niggers and Rednecks; Bad Luck Child; Cypress Grove; Shetland Pony; Callin' Me; Easy Rider; Who's to Blame; Illinois Blues; Me and the Devil.

Personnel: Keith B. Brown: guitar, vocal.

Title: Delta Soul | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Raisin Music


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Meeting My Shadow CD/LP/Track Review Meeting My Shadow
by James Nadal
Published: July 22, 2017
Read No Secrets No Lies CD/LP/Track Review No Secrets No Lies
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 22, 2017
Read 50 CD/LP/Track Review 50
by Doug Collette
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Day After Day CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "Lowdown Hoedown" CD/LP/Track Review Lowdown Hoedown
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian" CD/LP/Track Review Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Gratitude" CD/LP/Track Review Gratitude
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "This is Life" CD/LP/Track Review This is Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "Autumn Tales" CD/LP/Track Review Autumn Tales
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions" CD/LP/Track Review Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter...
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 26, 2016

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.