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Devil Down (DEVILDOWNCD004)

Backdoor Man, Jesus On The Mainline, World War One, When You Got A Good Friend, Prodigal Son, Gotta Boogie, Wreck On The Highway, Baby Please Don't Go, Denomination Blues, Jesse James, Leavin' Town, Skinny Woman, Shake ‘Em, Skinny Women, Ms Maybelle, Walkin' Blues, Doctor Brown, Shake Your Moneymaker, Laughin' To Keep From Cryin', Jumper On The Line, Back To Mississippi, Alice Mae, Let's Work Together, If Walls Could Talk.

Kenny Brown grew up in Nesbit, North Mississippi living next door to the legendary blues man Joe Callicot and ended up playing with RL Burnside, Othar Turner, Junior Kimbrough and many more who liked to let Kenny rough up their tunes. In fact, RL Burnside virtually adopted him - letting him loose as lead guitarist and slide guitar killer in his band for years. Since Burnside's death in 2005, Kenny has not only presented us with full-blooded interpretations of RL's hill country style but has also brought out versions of songs by Callicot and other blues men along with his own variations of traditional blues songs and older mountain music. On this double CD he demonstrates just how skilful he is on both acoustic and full powered electric guitars with twenty five tracks of blues, gospel songs, hill country rockers and traditional tunes.

Disc one (subtitled ‘Porch Songs') is the acoustic portion of the package and features Kenny powering his way through gems learned from Big Joe Williams, Robert Wilkins, Nathan Beauregard, Fred McDowell and the Carter Family. His use of lap steel on Jesus On The Mainline adds just the right amount of tension to make it something special while his bottleneck guitar fretting gives Back Door Man a real deep rural primitive feel. There's a nice lazy, lonesome sound when he gets into his easy rollin' finger-pickin' mode on his take on Big Joe Williams' Baby Please Don't Go, then the lap steel comes in again bringing some lightness to Washington Phillips masterwork Denomination Blues and there is some beautiful picking-slide interplay on his brisk but respectful adaption of Robert Wilkins' Prodigal Son.

Disc two (subtitled Money Maker) is the electric hill country blues side and is a live recording of Kenny rocking out with a band that could strip the creosote off the barn door. And so it should - that's Duwayne Burnside and Luther Dickinson playing back up guitars! They come on full blast with a pulverising attack that works its magic on songs like Son House's Walking Blues, RL Burnside's Jumper On The Line, Elmore James' Shake Your Moneymaker, Little Milton's If Walls Could Talk and Wilbert Harrison's Let's Work Together. Dunno who wrote Dr Brown but they certainly get it rockin' with screaming dust-my-broom licks from Kenny and red hot moments in the solos when Luther Dickinson joins in with some punchy backup. Doing a heavy job on Joe Callicott's delicate Laughing To Keep From Crying might seem wrong but Kenny Brown's arrangement gives it a great slapping beat behind guitars that rumble around the melody with a set of mesmerising licks and intricate picking while he bawls out those great lyrics in a voice that sounds like a cross between Johnny Winter and Jerry Lee Lewis!

This two CD showcase proves that Kenny Brown understands the blues inside and out. The acoustic ‘Porch Songs' and electric ‘Money Maker' more than illustrate his prodigious talent and I think it's going to be one of those milestone records that we'll still be talking about ten years from now.


Review Date: July 2011

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