The combination of Michael Jerome Browne’s voice and his guitar has always been something very special. To use that combination to give us an intimate look at soul music from a traditional blues player’s perspective is a master stroke. His deep knowledge of early recordings is put to good use as we get Blind Willie Johnson’s street gospel song “Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right”, a duet with Eric Bibb. “Pharoah”, a spiritual by Mrs. Sidney Carter was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959 but it no doubt goes back much further and here MJB is joined by Harrison Kennedy – the result is sheer pleasure. Taking us into the sixties, Lowell Fulson’s hit “Black Nights” gets a stirring solo performance joining Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s “That’s the Way Love Is” a second duet with Harrison. Sam Cooke’s “Somebody Have Mercy” moves from blues/R&B/soul firmly into soul. Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” are well-chosen classics from the ‘70’s. Stevie Wonder’s “Skeletons”, from Characters, is startlingly relevant some thirty years after it was written, something made very clear in MJB’s remarkable performance. We also get some new songs from MJB and his partner B.A. Markus that clearly hold their own in this company. “Love’s A Funny Thing”, “Remember When” and “Where is the Song?” bring us into the current period. The first two are gorgeous love songs and the third an attractive song of love lost. “Remember When” is a duet with Roxanne Potvin, another highlight for sure. I’ve put the songs into their historical order but MJB shuffles them, giving you a glimpse of how timeless and seamless this music is. The order also includes a couple of memorable MJB guitar instrumentals. MJB’s trademark gourd banjo, a replica of the kind played in the late 1800’s, is featured on a reprise of “Pharoah” that concludes the program. John McColgan, a bandmate from MJB’s days in the Stephen Barry Band, provides drums on five of the songs to great effect. The booklet includes lyrics and his usual ‘Guitar Nerd’s Corner’. Michael Jerome Browne, with guest Harrison Kennedy, will host the CD release party for us at Hugh’s Room on Feb. 22.

February 2019 - Ragtime Orioles
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