Harpdog Brown’s last album, Travelin’ with the Blues, was a masterpiece of stripped-down traditional blues but he has now completely changed direction, having discovered his New Orleans familial roots. His all-new band has a lineup of three hot horns (clarinet, tenor sax & trombone) & keyboards in addition to the usual guitar, bass & drums behind his vocals & harmonica. He wanted a sound that blended Chicago and New Orleans with some Sonny Boy harmonica, a daunting task made somewhat easier by having eight of the thirteen songs here written especially for the album. Master producer Steve Dawson was charged with marshalling the new sounds and he adds occasional guitar as the horns and keyboards handle most of the band solos. Harpdog makes his harmonica fit right in with those horns, especially on “For Love and Money” and Wynonie Harris’ “Buzzard Luck”. The real takeaway though is with his vocals, his gruff voice bringing to mind stars of the genre like Louis Jordan and Louis Armstrong. William Joseph Abbott on clarinet, Skye Lambourne on trombone and Jerry Cook on baritone & tenor sax solo like men possessed on these songs. Keyboard ace Dave Webb is their equal in that department with Jeremy Holmes on bass & Robert Vail Grant on drums powering everything along. Song highlights are many: Harpdog’s “Reefer Lovin’ Woman” was released a little early, last October 17th, when the new marijuana laws were enacted. Two of Amos Milburn’s famous drinking songs are here: “Vicious, Vicious Vodka and “Thinkin’ and Drinkin’”. The current single is “One Step Forward (and three steps back)”, written by Harpdog’s old friend Wayne Berezan, featuring some group vocals as he questions his progress. He turns in a superlative harmonica solo too. The official release date isn’t until April 26th but you can catch the new show before that: he’ll be here at the Dakota Tavern on April 12th and the next night at the Corktown Pub in Hamilton. The web site is www.HarpdogBrown.com.

April 2019 - Al Lerman
April 2019 - Manx Marriner Mainline