The Browntones concept was the brainchild of Dallas bluesmen Brian "Hash
Brown" Calway and Shawn Pittman in 1998. The basic idea was to put together
a band to play harp driven blues. Pittman subsequently moved to Austin, but
the Browntones concept was kept afloat by Hash Brown using different
musicians. Money problems meant that there was a hiatus after the first
recording session in June 2000, but fortunately things picked up, allowing
things to be completed in May 2002, albeit using another version of the
Browntones. The end result is "Have Some Fun!"
The album opens nicely with "Blues for April Green," which defines the
style of the Browntones. There are subtle shades of SRV, Fab T-birds, and
maybe even a little early Bluesbreakers about the way they play. It all
fits nicely together, with Brown leading from the front on harp and vocals.
The band then shift up a gear for the first swamp blues influenced number,
"Ain't No Way." The second, "Hot Dog," is a risque blues with shades of
Slim Harpo in the harp playing.
For someone who is best known as a guitarist, Brown is a more than capable
harp player. On "Celluphone Blues," for example, which chugs along neatly,
his playing calls to mind the great Snooky Pryor. He also plays chromatic
harp on "The Woman I Love," which has a nice walking bass line, courtesy of
John Bradley. The harp also combines surprisingly well with Elliott
Sowell's guitar on the T-Bone Walker style "Poultry Queen Boogie."
In addition to the eight original tunes, there are five covers, starting
with Sam Myers ("I've Got The Blues"), and ranging through to "Muskadine
Blues," one of Little Walter's first recorded tracks. The latter precedes
the closing track, "Hey Little Baby," where the Browntones are reduced to
the duo of Jon Moeller (guitar) and Hash Brown. It is a more down home
blues tune, and it is easy to imagine this as a call-and-response song in a
"Have Some Fun!" certainly achieves its aim: it sounds like the band had
fun recording it, and it certainly makes for pleasurable listening. There
are no real great surprises here, with a familiar feel to many of the
songs, all of which are all performed well. Even though two different
line-ups were used during recording, you would be hard pushed to identify
which songs came from which session. "Have Some Fun!" should appeal to
blues lovers everywhere--particularly fans of Texas blues--and shows that
there is still plenty of life in the old dog yet.
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This review is copyright © 2003 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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