With a new record set for release this spring, Harpdog Brown is a powerhouse, one-of-a-kind blues master.
There could hardly be a genre more suited to this versatile performer, who is gearing up for a show at The Krossing on Feb. 24th with his Uptown Blues Band.
And these days, he’s super excited about hitting the road with his band and showcasing brand new tunes from his upcoming album – For Love & Money – produced by Steve Dawson and due for release in late April. The collection also includes the explosive track Reefer Lovin’ Woman which pretty much grabs you from the get-go.
As his web site puts it, “Harpdog Brown has taken Chicago Blues down to New Orleans for a party. The result is a vibrant new sound with a ‘big band blues’ feel that’s totally uptown.
“It’s still a vintage vibe like you’d expect from Dog, just a different vintage! It’s guaranteed to keep you movin’ and groovin’!”
With a project like that coming down the pipe, you can bet Brown is seriously over the moon.
“Life either gets in the way or it kind of gets on play and things kind of fall in place,” he explained. “It’s a whole different direction, I guess,” he also noted of the project’s style. “It’s almost me coming full circle.
“It blows my mind and it’s going to blow yours, too,” he added with a chuckle.
Brown is also thrilled with the talent that exudes so seamlessly from the Uptown Blues Band – a gifted group of guys consisting of some incredible, fired-up young musicians and industry vets.
There’s piano man Dave Webb and Billy Joe Abbott, who is the newest and youngest addition to the band.
He learned his craft firsthand from some of the greatest players in New Orleans.
Rounding out the band is Dwayne Hrynkiw on drums.
It was a couple years back that Brown did a show with some young musicians in Vancouver, and he asked them if they were working on New Year’s Eve.
They went on to put together a gig and Brown knew pretty quickly he was onto something by joining forces with these folks for future tours and recording gigs.
“When I first heard them play, it was like, where did these guys get these chops from? You don’t learn that from a book!”
The young musicians had gone down to New Orleans at age 17 to learn to play, so their commitment to the craft was obvious.
“So we combined the three young dudes with the three old dudes and we had the best New Year’s that I’ve had in a long, long time. And it felt like I definitely had to do more of this.
“That’s also when I started conceiving a changeover musically,” he said. “It was time for change for all kinds of reasons, and the universe kind of dropped that in my lap as well.”
Meanwhile, Brown has long been recognized for exceptional skill, having landed the title of ‘Harmonica Player of the Year’ from the Toronto Blues Society and their Maple Blues Awards for several years running.
Turns out he’s also third generation out of New Orleans on his mom’s side, so no wonder the fire of the blues runs through his veins. He’s also truly committed to connecting with fans on a regular basis, typically racking up some 60,000 km yearly in his criss-crossing of the continent.
Some of those treks have been truly meaningful, even life-changing experiences, such as a memorable swing through the deep south where so much of the blues has its roots.
“That was a game changer. Like a Christian going to Jerusalem – for us to be going down and playing in Clarksdale, Mississippi. We also played in the oldest juke joint in the world in Bentonia, Mississippi, last May, too. It was very spiritual.”
Having been in the business as a touring and recording artist for more than 30 years, he has also shared the stage with such greats as Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, Pinetop Perkins, Jack de Keyzer and the late Dutch Mason to name a few. But the thing about Brown is he’s always looking ahead – not afraid to evolve and branch out with successive recordings and shows.
His latest CD, Travelin’ With the Blues, was released in 2016.