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Harpdog Brown (featuring Graham Guest) - Naturally

Dog Breath Records

Harpdog Brown is a deep voiced crooner with a dirty and mean harp who has joined forces with Graham Guest on grand piano to produce a great CD. These Canadian blues men toured as a duo and decided to lay down some tracks together based on the success of the tour. Guest is a superb piano player with a clean and crisp sound on the keys. The duo are a great pair- Brown belts out his songs with a gravelly tone and plays some down home harp with it. Brian Coughlin joins them on clarinet for some tracks and he adds more of that old time blues sound to the CD. Gordie Matthews also does backing vocals. I did not know what to expect from this CD and was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the sound and how it presents itself in such a fantastic manner!

We first get to hear Brown with both Guest and Coughlin on "I'll Make It Up to You". Brown's vocals are superb, Guest is exemplary on piano and Coughlin's clarinet is just fantastic. Trading solos from vocal to piano to clarinet is seamless and natural, and has a real old style sound to it (as does all of the album) that is warm and inviting. The trio also plays with "Ain't Misbehavin'", giving it a new, old-time sound. Brown holds his harp out of the mix on these as he does on some other songs so as not to overly complicate things; he seems to aptly know when less is more.

Brown and Guest romp through Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" on vocals and piano (there's some welll done backing vocals here, too), sounding like they could be in some old honky tonk cafe early in the last century. "Tell That Woman" is another period piece where Brown and Guest just go at it on song and piano in an interesting upbeat metered pace.

Brown closes with a solo on Rice Miller's "Movin' Down Side the River Rhine". He sings and plays his harp back and forth in this jazzy track. His gruff bass voice is soulful and his harp mean and dirty. Less is more, once again. The opening "I Had My Fun" is a blast- they swing though Jimmy Oden's song and give the listener a great look at how the two can play off each other, Brown on harp and vocals and Guest pounding and pumping his grand piano.

Whether they are taking it way down with cuts like "Blue Light Special", "Sacrifice" and "Fine Little Girl Rag" or take it up-tempo in cuts like "I Only Gamble on Love" and the aforementioned upbeat tracks, Harpdog Brown and his piano playing buddy Graham Guest are the real deal with a sound like the 1920's and modern day charm. I'd love to meet up with these guys and hear them live- the ten tracks presented here have really wet my appetite for more! This is not music for those who want big guitar rocking blues; this is blues as it was played in small piano clubs almost a century ago. Brown's got a very cool sound to his vocals and punctuates the songs with some well-done harp or alternately adds in the clarinet. Guest's piano is flawless- I am floored by him and his sound, too. It's an old time sound that is made new and clean and bright by some great musicians. This one is a real sleeper of a CD worth exploring! .

Reviewer  Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.

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