Saturday, March 2, 2024

Brothers Brown: “Nowhere Left To Go” (2024) CD Review

Brothers Brown is a bluesy jam band founded by two guys with the same name, Paul Brown, one of them from Nashville, the other from Los Angeles. Paul Brown from Los Angeles is on vocals and guitar; Paul Brown from Nashville is on organ, piano and synthesizer. David Santos plays bass and rhythm guitar, and provides vocals; Peter Young is on drums, percussion, guitar, and also provides vocals. In 2016, they put out their first album, Dusty Road, which contains some excellent songs, such as “The River” and “This Old Heart.” The band’s new album, Nowhere Left To Go, features all original material, and again these guys have composed some gems. This disc also features special guest Bobby Rush on one track.

The album opens with “Wrong Side Of Town,” a tune that eases in and soon develops a soulful vibe, and features some nice work on keys. Ah, the wrong side of town never sounded so right. That’s followed by “Junior’s Back.” “He made the most disturbing sound,” they sing early in this one, but the sound of this song is wonderful, the band taking some inspiration from early 1970s rock bands. Fans of groups like Allman Brothers and Little Feat will dig this song. This track features some good guitar work, particularly during the jam in the middle. “I’m going to take a long trip when he comes to town/Back to the days when the stars and the moon were friends/Staring up into the night, I thought it would never end.” The band then establishes a cool blues vibe at the beginning of “Runnin’ Blues,” telling us, “I’m on a hell-bound train.” I love that image. Something about a train always work in song. He’s heading for trouble, but, as we learn, he was also leaving trouble: “I left a world of hurt and pain back there behind me.” So maybe it’s no surprise when he sings that he has “nothing left to lose.” This is one of my personal favorite tracks. “I took a lover’s deepest trust and I betrayed it/I owed someone the deepest debt, I never paid it/I broke a promise to be true.”

Paul Brown (from Nashville) has worked with Bobby Rush on several of his albums, including that great 2013 release Down In Louisiana, also playing keys on it and writing some of the material. And on this album’s title track, “Nowhere Left To Go,” Bobby Rush joins the band on vocals. As you might expect from his presence, this song has a stronger blues sound, and is another of the disc’s highlights. “Got a stack of bills on my table.” Always, right? “Everything is upside down/All the dreams I ever had got all turned around.” That’s followed by another seriously cool blues number, “My Baby.” Here are the opening lines: “My baby wants to make love tonight/She says she’s gonna make me feel all right/Well, my baby’s gonna let her hair down tonight.” Oh yes, that’s what we all need. When the world gets a bit too mad, it’s great to narrow the focus down just to two people, remind yourself what life’s all about. This track has a strong groove and features some wonderful work on both keys and guitar.

Let’s all get high up on the mountains,” they sing sweetly at the start of “High Up On The Mountains,” pausing slightly after the word “high,” giving us the impression that they mean it in more than one sense. “Let the world just slip away.” Yes, that’s just what many of us are itching for these days. There is a beauty to this song, especially in the vocal delivery, and I appreciate the song’s optimism. It leaves us with the line “And somehow we’ll find our way.” This is another of the album’s highlights, an absolutely wonderful song. That’s followed by “Chitlin’ Pickin’,” a totally enjoyable instrumental track with a groove to get folks dancing. There is a certain joy to this tune. This track in particular makes me want to see this band in concert. Then a delicious, mean blues vibe is created at the beginning of “Brand New Day,” and it’s a more than a minute before the vocals come in, giving a chance for us to first get immersed in the groove. “Yeah, the sun is shining through our window/It’s a brand new day.” It’s a new day, with possibilities, but the blues are still there. This track features some excellent work on bass.

“Whatcha Gonna Do” also has a strong groove. “Don’t think about yesterday, it’s already gone/Don’t think about tomorrow, you can’t predict what’s in the stars/And I want to say, whatcha going to do, it’s just another day/Whatcha gonna do with it?” That’s the question, isn’t it? It is difficult to remain in the present, and that is what the song is urging us to do. And its positive vibes are working. The best way I find to stay in the present is to dance, to lose myself in the music at a concert. Those are the moments when I feel most in the present. That’s followed by “Give Me One Reason,” a relationship song. “I don’t know why you run away and always try to hurt me.” I love the liveliness of the chorus, and some of the guitar work is catchy. And that “Sha la la” part reminds me of Van Morrison. Then “Snakehole Road” has more of a blues rock sound, rising up from the dark mists out there on the edge where the blues seems to take physical form. “The place is always open/Oh, whatcha going to do/Ain’t no cops for miles around.” The song has a bit of an odd ending. “Black And Blue” also something of a heavier sound, and features some good work on drums. The album concludes with “Fifteen Minutes,” an aptly titled blues jam. Actually, it’s nearly sixteen minutes in length. I do wonder if the title came after it was recorded, and I wonder if when they play it in concert and it goes, say, seventeen minutes, do they then re-title it. Anyway, it’s a cool, slow number featuring some delicious work on guitar. It has a great contemplative vibe, and the guitar takes on more of an exploratory feel at times in the second half. There is also some excellent percussion. It’s a really good instrumental track, and another that makes me want to see this band perform live.

CD Track List

  1. Wrong Side Of Town
  2. Junior’s Back
  3. Runnin’ Blues
  4. Nowhere Left To Go
  5. My Baby
  6. High Up On The Mountain
  7. Chitlin’ Pickin’
  8. Brand New Day
  9. Whatcha Gonna Do
  10. Give Me One Reason
  11. Snakehole Road
  12. Black And Blue
  13. Fifteen Minutes

Nowhere Left To Go was released on January 12, 2024 on Woodward Avenue Records.

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