Blues Bytes


October/November 2005

an associate

Keith B. Brown
Delta Soul
Raisin Music

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 record.

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 privacy.

"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 blues efforts.

Keith B’s version of "Easy Rider," the Blind Lemon Jefferson song, is a treat. Upbeat and friendly….very warm playing….emotive. Just nicely done.

"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 Johnson.

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


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