There should be a medal for people like Graham Brown.
Optimism in the face of apathy?
Either as a sideman/collaborator or leader of his own band, Brown has done valuable work. He’s figured sharply as a guitar player or songwriter with Jr. Gone Wild, Brilliant Orange and Happy Man and a long line of solo albums of various intent, sometimes country, acoustic , folksy, rootsy (all subtly different) but, at the core, rock.
Rock sounds old fashioned. It’s been changed by so many variations, distorted by time. But rock has a certain resonance and therefore is recognizable. So the Graham Brown Band’s Spirit And Soul is unvarnished rock. Pared down rather than plumped up by additional qualifiers.
To get here, Brown has developed a sympathetic rapport with Bill Buckingham that has resulted in a clear but virile sound and Brown’s best vocals. His band also has grown with him and now seems intuitive. If Spirit And Soul has a wholeness, it is because what you hear is a band sparking off each other.
Graham Brown is an upbeat singer-writer at the core but as a guitarist there is a lot of Neil Young right from the start with the title track but especially with Down Here With You, which seems to be inspired by Young’s Cowgirl In The Sand. As well, the presence of harmonica has Young’s character – not blues, not country but a brightness in between.
Less obvious is a Tom Petty directness and a Wishbone Ash lyricism that comes out in the infrequent Argus era guitar phrases.
To that end Brown’s spirit hasn’t been dampened and his soul still squeezes out sparks.