The cover shot to Keith B. Brown's 3rd album, "Delta Soul", has him beaming out whilst strumming his guitar, brimming with confidence and looking like a man content with life. I think most listeners will feel that is the case after hearing this outstanding CD.
The 46 year old Memphis born singer/songwriter came to the blues reletively late, as an 18 year old he was playing mainstream pop and rock, then on hearing an early recording of Muddy Waters he backtracked his musical leanings, finding Robert Johnson and Son House in particular. "Son just blew me away. His emotion was so furious, intense. He was wicked...."
Keith found his musical calling and his own personal identity thro' the blues. Opening up a whole new world through the songs of Skip James, Bukka White, Fred McDowell and Blind Willie Johnson. He learned of the Titanic tragedy and events in World War 1 from Johnson's songs. He began to see himself and his family history in the blues.." The blues tells the story of the African in the U.S. And that's what I am, that's what I consider myself. I am African, but by default I am an African-American, however you want to define it. I mean the only true Americans were the native-Americans. The rest is just ketchup."
Not only in the music sphere is Keith making waves but in the movie business he has shone . Firstly playing Son House in Glenn Marzano's 1999's award winning "Stop Breakin' Down" about the life of Robert Johnson. He also got a call from Wim Wender to audition for the part of Skip James in the Martin Scrosese production of his film, "The Soul of a Man".
Delta Soul has a sub-title, Alone and Acoustic. Just Keith and his guitar, recording the songs live on the first take, no overdubs. Allowing the listener to hear a talent bearing his soul through a mix of orignal titles and interpretations of his heroes delta blues.
The album opens with Son House's signature song 'Death Letter' a delta blues classic, lost love until too late, showcasing the guitar talent that is prevelant throughout the album in varing styles. He slows thing down on the second track 'Hard Time Killing Floor' with a haunting rendition of the country blues of Skip James, with Keith's vocal sliding from an angelic falsetto to a bourbon soaked field workers growl. The next four tracks are Brown originals letting the listener see into the heart and soul of this talented singer/songwriter. 'All I Need' a tender country blues feel with some great pickin' and 'Didn't Come Today' a more folk orientated tune, are both fine laments of absent love , the later showing a handsome honeyed vocal. The poignant 'Niggers and Rednecks', the album highlight in my opinion, sung unaccompanied, has Keith looking at the world as it is now and as it was, like a contemoprary hobo traveller. The blues was always steeped in some way with poitics and injustices and Keith gives his take on 9/11 near the end of the album in 'Who's To Blame' a more contempory feeling folk song. Keith's vocals are at there best along with some intricate guitar work on skip James's Cypress Grove, sending the listener down into the swamps of the south. 'Illinois Blues' , Skip's first ever composition, is another fine interpretation of a classic showing the listener all that is fine about both artists. Blind Lemon Jefferson has always been up at the top for me and Keith's fresh take on his 'Easy Rider' is masterful and a joy from start to finish. He closes "Delta Soul" with a powerful rendition of Robert Johnson's 'Me and the Devil' with his vocals seeming to gather extra conviction amd soul.
This CD works on all levels, it's a passionate homage to his mentors without choosing mimicry and is made even more special by the fact it was recorded live with all the songs being recorded in one take letting the listener here a true artist at work. It's inevetable that the comparisons will flood out when listening to Delta Soul, Eric Bibb, Keb Mo the usual suspects, but here on Delta Soul is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist of considerable skills who stand head and shoulder above many out there not just in talent but in overall conviction to the blues tradition.