Brothers Brown are a group of four veteran consummate musicians who craft an auspicious debut with Dusty Road on Funky Joint Records distributed by 335 Records. This brotherly effort blends strains of soulful blues, R&B, alt-country, jazz and rock and roll on twelve salient songs that keenly help define the genre of Americana Music. All the writing and production credits are shared by Brothers Brown in a demonstration of their brotherly love. Although the four members have different biological parents, they are true brothers in the sense that they are related to each other by common ties and interests. All four are accomplished music producers. Together they make memorable music that purrs like kittens full of cream while they kick up their heels like colts in a field of clover.
The group is somewhat of an enigma with very little information about the group and no song lyrics inside the CD. I will allow them to keep their backgrounds mysterious, because even though they all have extensive musical resumes, it is the music they collectively make here on Dusty Road that will be my primary concern. The group consists of Paul Brown (Los Angeles) on guitars and vocals, Paul Brown (Nashville) on keyboards and vocals, David Santos on bass guitar and additional vocals, and Pete Young on drums and vocals.
Dusty Road begins strongly with “Cup of Tea,” a song that conjures up visions of the southern-fried blues/funk/rock band Little Feat during the Dixie Chicken era. Paul Brown’s guitar is flavorful; somewhat like the tasty licks Vince Gill at times displays. The smart lyrics are playfully suggestive and raise doubts about whether it’s the rice and beans Louise is busy cooking up that is his real desire. “She’s my buttercup, my sugar plum, Lord she’s my cup of tea. She’s like cherry wine, she’s so fine.”
The jazz-blues tinged “Love Sake” follows with an easy grooving feel of a lazy river. Keyboardist Paul Brown lays down an easy-flowing Hammond B-3 organ melody while guitarist Paul Brown displays a light and clean guitar touch reminiscent of a couple of his major influences; jazzy like Wes Montgomery and bluesy like Larry Carlton.
The funky thumb plucked bass of David Santos and the forceful B-3 organ of Paul Brown drive the song titled “Sweet Cadillac.” Paul Browns’ guitar exhibits a funky strutting ambiance as does his vocal proclaiming “She’s my sweeeeet Cadillac, my Daisy Duke from 1962, drivin’ her uptown is all I wanna do.” The song could serve as a metaphor for a lovable lady, but perhaps the lyrics do really refer to the top-of-the-line American automobile that was my dream car until my wise father told me: “You don’t want a Caddy unless you can afford insurance, gas and repairs on one!”
“We bass players are the unsung heroes. We are the mortar between the bricks, the foundation of the house. It is our job, our purpose and our intention to support, to hold together with strength and quiet dignity, the structure of the music.” ~ David Santos
The charming “When All Is Said And Done” features an unrushed shuffling tempo and some beautiful interplay between the guitar and organ. Like many of the songs it possesses a powerful groove and lyrics that state “I get up and I get down.” The lyrics speak of love and devotion. “When all is said and done… you’re still my only one.” It is about 50% instrumental with Pete Young’s drum beat steady as a metronome.
The simplistic lyrics of “Can’t Outrun The Blues” are as catchy as a fish hook freshly baited with a plump juicy worm. An example is “Can’t outrun, can’t outrun the blues, the blues’ll catch up to you.” They speak of nobody being immune to the effects of the blues, even on your honeymoon depression can raise its evil head.
“The River” is a wonderful song that, in certain ways, recalls some of the iconic work from The Band. David Santos provides an earthy lead vocal that is a tad bit similar to the late, great Rick Danko. Paul Brown does his best simulation of the Robbie Robertson guitar mastery, and the keyboards of Paul Brown reproduce the artistry of Garth Hudson. The song has a marvelous melody with lovely harmony vocals, and the lyrical imagery is vivid. A reference to taking a trip down the mighty Mississippi River, “think I’ll go down the river,” lets your mind wander along for the ride.
The song “Hurricane” features a special guest appearance on slide guitar by Little Feat veteran Paul Barrere. His excellent bottleneck slide guitar exchanges licks with Paul Brown’s guitar to form a most formidable duo. Paul Brown inserts some terrific B-3 embellishments as Pete Young provides steady thrusting drums that give this tune a call to the dance floor number.
Paul Brown’s mid-song guitar lead is crispy as fresh lettuce on the hard-groovin’ tune entittled “Nothin’ But Love.” The thumping rhythm section of Young and Santos proves a buttress serving as a bottomless cavern for the keys and guitars to rise above. The vocal has a haunting quality with the background vocal refrain of “you-whoo, you-whoo, you whooo” is a guaranteed earwig after the second of third listen.
The bouncy “This Old Heart” is a bluesy delight about a man suffering trust issues with his woman. Paul Brown’s guitar is restrained, but savory, as is the wholesome organ when it joins in the musical conversation. A touch of honky-tonk piano adds further spice. On “California,” a soul/blues texture encompasses the proceedings. Paul Brown’s vocal has an anguished tone and his guitar wails with wah-wah pedal effects that bite like a rabid dog. Yet again, the Hammond B-3 organ nourishes the song like rain does to flowers.
“The B-3 has become a part of me. It all stems from the feel and the chords, melodies and dynamics absorbed from playing soul and gospel music and then taking it in all directions.” ~ Paul Brown
Drummer Pete Young provides a distinctive lead vocal on “Drink You Off My Mind.” His voice has much of the character of mid-period Bob Dylan (Planet Waves) and Brown’s organ is sublime reminding me of Al Kooper mixed with Jimmy McGriff with his cool pacing and use of “space.” Brown also adds some piano to the song for further depth. You can guess what the subject matter entails by the song’s title.
“Making music is simple to me. When something moves me emotionally, then I know it’s good. Everything I do, from the albums I produce for established artists to those I do for up and coming performers to my own projects, is creatively stimulating to me in a unique way. I love doing them all.” ~ Paul Brown
Like seasoned professionals are apt to do, the Brothers Brown save the best for last. The title track “Dusy Road,” features a super passionate free-wheeling vocal by guitarist Brown. His marvelous guitar lead solos have elements of Mark Knopfler’s finest moments. The rhythm section of Santos and Young is vibrantly alive in the mix with a spirit that cannot be denied as they establish a pocket deep as the deep blue sea waters. Again Paul Brown’s Hammond B-3 organ driven through his Leslie speaker is divinely attractive as he responds to the abundant glistening guitar notes. The lyrics concern a soul driving along, all alone on a dusty road dreaming of a lost love. “Darkness feels like thunder, ain’t no light up in the sky” are examples of the imagery contained in the song. The mention of tumbleweeds, and reference of rain (tears?) in his eyes further fuel the flames. The entire ensemble rock on this one, making it a beyond doubt stand-out track.
“The bottom line is, this is a group of really good people and terrific musicians who are doing this because we love it. And that love and all of are lives are reflected in this music, which is why it sounds so natural and has so much depth.” ~ Pete Young
Every song on Dusty Road has weighty merit. I confess that I’ve been a long-time follower/fan of Paul Brown and every project he lays his magic touch on. The group insists that there will be a follow-up release in addition to some concert touring when all their busy schedules allow. Dusty Road is truly some high quality stuff! Superlatives cannot sufficiently give justice to this super-fine collection of work. Every note played is rock solid, yet supple, featuring a loose but never sloppy character. On Dusty Road these four excellent musicians have captured the essence and true rootsy spirit of Americana music.
Randall Parrish is a Senior Editor at Vivascene, with extensive publishing credits at various jazz and blues sites. He is also an avid guitar player whose musical knowledge of jazz, blues and roots music is widely respected. Based in Nevada, he can be reached by email here: RandallParrish@vivascene.com