Double, the two CD release from Michael Jerome Browne is remarkable. To call it a blues release would be woefully inadequate. It is heavily blues-based but tucked away amidst the blues are several gems from other roots genres.
CD 1 was recorded line in 2006 at Main Hall in Montreal. The tracks here range from good to great. Things start out good and just keep getting better. One of the treats here is some solid slide work on Ramblin' Blues, a variant of Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues. There is some great Chicago-style material like Sit Down Baby and Cool Drink of Water. The real gems on this side though are a cover of Chicken Stuff, and his use of the gourd banjo for Sugar Baby and the best cover of Old Smokey I've ever heard.
Part of the reason this side is so great is the back up musicians that Browne has surrounding him. All are great and give the music a wonderful, solid and honest solid. The tracks with the band on them create a perfect feel of the live jook joint band having the time of their lives making great music. Appearing on 5 of these cuts is Sue Foley. Browne doesn't need the help but it darn sure doesn't hurt!
CD 1 needs listened to more than once to get the full impact. It is one of those works that grows on you; the more you listen the more you'll enjoy it!
CD 2 was recorded in the studio but Browne says this is "live off the floor." This side was recorded eight years earlier and is by far the stronger of the two CDs. Opening with a near-perfect acoustic track, Country Breakdown this side just marches on from one great cut to another. Without sounding like a mere copy, the second cut, Wartime Blues absolutely nails the sound and feel of the old southeastern U.S. country blues. Blacktop further reveals how deep Browne's knowledge of traditional blues runs. This side has more banjo tunes, Creole tunes and blues. But he doesn't stop there. How about an acoustic version of Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression, a cover of Charlie Patton's Green River Blues or John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen.
Michael Jerome Browne's Double is something he should be unconditionally proud to have released. He has a good vocal range, is extremely talent on several instruments, loves traditional musics and still appreciates the work of more contemporary artists. This is likely to be on my list of best new CDs for 2008. Yours too if you get. Get it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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