Blues giant Harpdog Brown is back with a fired-up new CD and he’s including Red Deer on the new project’s release tour.
The Harpdog Brown Band performs at Fratters on May 14th in support of What It Is, which was released in early March.
Packed with what fans have grown to expect from Brown over the past three decades, the disc captures what the man is all about – a flat-out commitment to creating some of the finest blues music around. From the classic swagger of Big Rockin’ Daddy and All Night Boogie to the slowed-down instrumental simmer of Blue Lights, it’s certainly all here. Of course, Brown is truly in his element in a ‘live’ setting where he can let loose and his music’s intensity heats up to an entirely new level.
Other gems include the sleek Doncha Know I Loves You, How Come, In My Younger Days and the irrepressible charms of If Ya Wanna Grow Old and Whiskey Bottle.
There’s not a misstep to be found as the CD rolls along – it’s vintage Brown from start to finish, and there’s no doubt he’s itching to get on the road and introduce the cuts to the masses.
The guys wrapped the disc in just a few days ‘live off the floor’ which suits the material perfectly. And although some recording had been done late last year, Brown felt the band (which includes drummer John R. Hunter, guitarist Jordan Edmonds and bassist George Fenn) hadn’t give the tunes enough of a road-test just yet.
So he essentially looks on those early sessions as a kind of pre-production. And today, the results are right where he wants them – Brown looks at What It Is as particularly special as it’s basically a debut CD for his relatively newly-configured band.
“I could see a difference in the band from November to January – (several gigs) really tightened up and toughened up the band,” he explains. “Things were a lot more together.”
Already, fans are liking what they are hearing – and new fans are joining the ranks. Even prior to its release, tunes from the project were climbing charts.
“With this album, we decided we were going to go all out,” he said, pointing out he hired a respected blues publicist who promptly sent out discs to a multitude of blues deejays. That was prior to May 1st, which Brown describes as the beginning of the campaign to spread the word.
“I was getting airplay before we started our campaign and the first week of April, the album entered the Roots Music Report charts. On the blues charts in Canada, it entered at number five with four songs also in the top 50. And on the American blues charts it entered at number 39 on the top 50.
“This is the year I feel it’s up to me to get it all in place, and do as much as I can to set the rest of my life up to do what it is I believe I’m on the planet to do.”
Back to new CD – it’s polished but raw, with the energy of a live show punctuating the project at every turn. Plus, the CD also really showcases Brown’s vocals – he’s of course an extremely talented musician but as seen here, has the pipes to match.
Having been in the business for more than 30 years, Brown has shared the stage with such greats as Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, Pinetop Perkins, The Powder Blues Band, Jack de Keyzer and the late Dutch Mason to name a few.
He cites Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton and Tom Waits as key influences in his own development as an artist.
Originally from Edmonton, Brown can indeed be described as a gifted singer and an imaginative harp player who brings traditional blues into the 21st century.
As to his early days, he started playing instruments before he even really knew what they were. As a youngster, his mom would plunk him down with a lap steel guitar and he would come up with all kinds of stuff. In his late teens he landed his first gig as a guitarist with a singer.
The guys would open for comedians, and although it wasn’t exactly where his heart was it was during times like this Brown really began to see his ability to connect with audiences.
Next up he joined a rock band which further solidified his love for touring.
He eventually settled into the genre that would truly fit – the blues. It’s heartfelt nature, rife with honesty and gritty authenticity, is what has been so compelling to him over the years.
Ultimately, Brown pretty much feels at home wherever he finds himself. It’s a good trait to have, as he’s committed to touring and relishes the realities of life on the road.
“All my life I’ve been drawn away from the ‘regularities’ of life – I think I was born with gypsy blood,” he has observed. “I don’t like boredom. I like being busy and I like change.”
Check out www.harpdogbrown.com.