Keith B. Brown
Once in a great while a record comes
along that slaps you upside the face and says, "Listen to me!" The
latest release by Keith B. Brown, Delta Soul, is such a
Keith B. portrayed Skip James in the
Wim Wender film, “The Soul of a Man,” that was part of Martin Scorsese’s
series, The Blues, and brings a thoroughly modern approach to the
Delta blues traditions. Other reviewers for Blues Bytes have commented
on artists such as Alvin Youngblood Hart and Duwayne Burnside as modern
day innovators whose diversity is part of what keeps the blues alive.
Keith B. Brown is another name that
belongs on that list.
True to his Delta influences, Brown opens with the Son House song,
"Death Letter," a tribute to a woman he didn’t really know he loved
until he watched her being buried. What follows is the haunting Skip
James tune, "Hard Time Killing Floor." You can almost feel James sitting
on Keith B’s shoulder as he sings about the really hard times in life
and his struggles to carry on.
"All I Need" is the first original song on the disc and a song of
longing for love in his life. Having lost one true love Brown is acutely
aware of the influence of love in his life and the need for it. "Didn’t
Come Today" carries on the theme by lamenting for a letter that never
comes. He’s aware of his isolation in the world and would rather deal
with it on his own terms then listen to outside opinion. “Think I’ll
take a walk and avoid the people as they talk” emphasizes his need for
"Niggers and Rednecks" is a passionate reminder that even as the world
evolves, prejudice still exists. “I lost the battle so long ago…On my
hands and knees Lord I toil on so.” As a society, "Niggers and Rednecks"
reminds us that there is still much to do in the world before all races
are truly treated equally.
Brown’s rebel side comes out on "Bad
Luck Child." Hearing "Bad Luck Child" I can see Brown in my mind’s eye
listening to the fortune teller admonishing him to leave town before
something bad happens…”Boy your time ain’t very long…From the things I
see you done done somebody wrong.”
"Cypress Grove" carries on the theme of prejudice. In this Skip James
song Brown continues to reflect on how poorly blacks were treated in the
South. Things pick up with Brown’s rendition of Son House’s "Shetland
Pony," and then slow back down with Fred McDowell’s "Callin’ Me."
The diversity of these songs is
indicative of Brown’s early influences and showcases his ability to play
true to the Delta traditions. It’s important to Brown to make the songs
his own but he refuses to mix style when interpreting songs. He prefers
to remain true to the style of the writer, a tribute to their pioneering
Keith B’s version of "Easy Rider," the Blind Lemon Jefferson song, is a
treat. Upbeat and friendly….very warm playing….emotive. Just nicely
"Whose to Blame," the final original
song on the disc, is a song of tragedy and the need to determine who is
at fault. Brown’s advice is “Trust nobody and whenever possible….Never
give your real name.” Lyrically clever and wonderfully played, it’s
clear that Brown is an innovative writer and one wishes there were more
originals on this disc.
Brown closes Delta Soul with "Illinois Blues," by Skip James, and
"Me and the Devil," a classic interpretation of the song by Robert
The liner notes for Delta Soul
indicate that all of the songs on the CD are live first takes; there are
no overdubs. It’s almost as if Keith B. Brown spent the afternoon on the
porch playing his heart out and sharing his soul with the world. To get
it right the first time is a testament to his musicianship as an artist.
Delta Soul is only available
through his website,
and I would encourage everyone to add this modern day Delta gem to your
collection. You won’t be disappointed.
--- Kyle Deibler