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Oli Brown - Here I Am

Ruf Records


Oli Brown is touted as Britain’s next blues “phenom” in the press and in his publicity handouts. There is only one problem, in this release there are no blues to be found and hardly anything you could call blues-rock. What he does here sounds like late sixties-early seventies hard rock. Gee, maybe he met the ghosts of Steve Marriot and Foghat’s Lonesome Dave Peverett at the crossroads. Perhaps a change in direction, but his guitar solos are mostly quite short with a hard attack, but showing little in the way of originality. His voice and lyric writing are the two things they set him above the pack. He possesses a strong and pleasing voice and his lyrics are more inventive than most. He has the requisite bravado and swagger for the genre. What we have here is a power trio that is augmented with keyboards as a backwash at times.

He jumps right into the fray with a life statement in the title track where he exclaims-“A little change wouldn’t do any harm” and “Ain’t tryin’ to be no Jimi or Stevie; I wanna be my goddam self”. It looks like there is little chance of him rivaling either. Then he proceeds to lunge into “Thinking About Her” with a rift that sounds like it was lifted from a SRV song. He does rip off a nice stinging jazz-inflected solo. “Manic Bloom” employs a catchy riff, as well as a short rip-roaring solo. The breakup song “All We Had To Give” strolls along nicely with the inclusion of a soaring solo. He does a successful reading of Al Kooper’s classic “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” from the first Blood, Sweat And Tears album taken at a slower tempo with a slow jazzy guitar solo. His vocal shines here and snyth-strings don’t sound out of place. “Mr. Wilson” is a well executed cheater’s tale, where the rhythm section hangs on to every turn-in-the-road, as they do all over this record. Nikki Costa’s “Like A Feather” is super catchy and playful with the added vocals of Dani Wilde. Former Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones contributes low-in-the-mix harmonica to the closing song “Solid Ground”. The record goes out as strongly as it began.

Although Oli doesn’t live up to the hype bestowed upon him as a blues guitar-singer hero, what he does is done well. Producer-drummer Wayne Proctor does his job well along with bass player Scott Barnes. Joel White’s keyboards add a boost without taking solos. Songwriting is handled well on their ten originals and the two covers are given new life. With his good looks and pretty boy swagger as an extra tagged on to his talent he could become today’s Peter Frampton, or better yet today’s Oli Brown.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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