Let me introduce you to the Real Blues of Mel Brown. He was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on October 7, 1939, and grew up in a family where playing music was as instinctive as breathing the Delta air. He has shared the stage and/or recorded with the likes of Etta James, Johnny Otis, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Lightniní Hopkins, Earl Hooker and Bobby "Blue" Bland.
In fact Mel was Bobbyís guitar player from 1971 until 1982. During the mid 1980s, Mel toured and recorded with Albert Collins. Then after a long-standing invitation, Mel joined the house band at Antoneís in 1982 and stayed there for almost 8 years.
In 1989 Brown accepted an offer to work at a club in Kitchener, Ontario, and has remained in Canada ever since. In 1998 his recording career got back on track as he was a featured guest on Snooky Pryorís acclaimed Electro-Fi CD Canít Stop Blowiní. Now with Neck Bones and Caviar, Mel is delivering his extraordinary talent with the world.
The stage is set for the CD beginning with the upbeat tempo of "I Ainít Drunk." The tune features the smooth jazz-tinged tones that Mel and his Super 400 Gibson are so well known for. Itís the first of many tracks that feature pianist extraordinaire John Lee and the backing vocals of Miss Angel. Things slow down for the soulful "Youíre The One." Here Mel has to really reach vocally to hit a couple notes but again its his guitar work that most matters.
Melís live shows consist primarily of blues standards and covers. Surprisingly the 12 track CD features 4 originals which prove that Mel can write with the best of them. One of the originals, "I Want To Hold Onto You, Baby" features a catchy, funky groove and superb organ work by John Lee in addition to the funky bass of Al Richardson.
Without a doubt, the Brown penned "Summer Magic" is the CDís highlight. The instrumental is named appropriately as it makes you relax and feel a cool summer evening breeze. It mixes jazzy keyboard work with a soulful rhythm. All the band members get a shot at the limelight in this track proving the Homewreckers to be a very competent blues band. "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" takes us down to New Orleans with its zydeco influence. Mel sounds like Barry White in the intro of "I Believe To My Soul." Melís guitar sings the blues in this song. In fact, you can picture the teardrops dripping off his strings. If it wasnít for the familiar lyrics of "Goiní Down Slow", the tune wouldnít be recognized. Mel completely changes around the music and breathes a fresh breath of life into the old song. The track also features some of Melís best guitar work to be found on the CD. The traditional "Lord, Have Mercy" returns to the basics. Its just Mel singing and playing the piano. The final original, "Blues On The Green", is again an instrumental and it doesnít disappoint. John Lee again tingles the ivories until the chills run down your spine. Mel adds his unique blues guitar and the result is enough real blues to soothe the soul. The CD ends where Melís life began, in the Delta with "Iím In The Mood."
The producerís Andrew Galloway and Sandra B Tooze did a superb job in capturing 65 minutes of one of the last great blues players of his generation. Ms Tooze is also an award winning author and did an excellent job writing the CDís liner notes. Some of which were borrowed for this review.
Blues legend and Melís pal Snooky Pryor says "Nobody does it like Mel Brown." Joe Louis Walker recently said, "Heís probably one of the greatest guitar players in any style. I remember playing at Antoneís and Mel just came up and slaughtered all of us." One listen to Neck Bones & Caviar and youíll be slaughtered too!
For CDs, booking and information, write to: Electro-Fi Records, PO Box 191, LaSalle Station, Niagara Falls, NY 14304 Tel (416) 251-3036.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.