Texas Johnny Brown's last album, "Nothin' But The Blues," was nominated for best comeback album in the 1999 Handy's. It may not have won, but that did nothing to diminish the verve of Brown, who has come back with "Blues Defender" which is even better than its predecessor. With a little bit of luck, Brown could just get one of those coveted awards this time around.
"Blues Defender" opens with a real bang on the intro to "Handy Man." It is an upbeat Texas blues with horns, keyboards and some tasty guitar from the main man. As a songwriter, Brown continues to turn out quality blues, and wrote all bar the second track here (Lil Green's "In The Dark"). For the most part Brown plays and writes in the Texas style, with a soulful edge. The results are very pleasing to the ear, particularly on songs like "Did You Lose Your Way?" with its combination of exquisite guitar, mellow horns,
and swirling Hammond organ (courtesy of William Hollis).
Best song title of the year must be "Bad Hair Day." It is a fantastic song which opens with blaring horns and some very classy guitar from Brown. The lyrics describe how the man is trying to keep a smile on the face of his lady. If that means forking out for an expensive new hair-do to counter the effects of a bad hair day, then so be it: the main aim is to keep the lady happy.
The pace of the album is nicely balanced. So following the raucously uptempo "Bad Hair Day" Brown takes things down low and slow with "Quality Blues." It is the first of two instrumentals, and, as the name suggests it really is quality blues. This is Brown at his very best, ably assisted by some appropriately churchy organ from Hollis. The pace then switches again for the mambo-esque "Blues Defender" which Brown also carries off with consummate ease.
"Rained Out" eventually brings proceedings to a mellow close. This is the second of the instrumentals, and only has Brown on guitar, playing over the sounds of a heavy rainstorm. It is a highly evocative piece, and you can just imagine Brown sat looking out the window as the rains come down, strumming away as the mood takes him. An original, and very relaxed way to round off.
"Blues Defender" aptly demonstrates that Texas Johnny Brown is more than capable of competing with the best. This is top drawer soulful Texas blues which should appeal to blues lovers of any genre. It may be more than 10 years since Brown retired from his day job and returned to music, but he is still a very fine guitarist, singer and songwriter. Highly recommended.
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