Though his name may not yet be as recognized as the Burnside surname in our last review, the exceptionally strong debut album from Leonard “Lowdown” Brown is sure to help the longtime Houston bluesman win a bunch of new fans around the world. With its smooth vocals and soulful grooves, the easy-flowing Blues is Calling Me (Music Maker Foundation) is one of the most impressive soul-blues albums we’ve heard in quite some time, and should be a serious contender for both next year’s soul and debut blues album awards.
A grooving “Juke Joint” gets things moving nicely before Brown glides through another nine solid tracks, reminding at different times along the way of such greats as Bobby Rush, Sam Cooke, Cyril Neville, Syl Johnson and Johnny Rawls. The breezy, Hurricane Katrina-inspired “Find a Bridge” and slower, swaying “French Quarter Woman” that follows are fine examples of Brown’s more R&B side, while the strolling, deeply soulful “Can’t Buy Time” and gritty, somewhat “I Pity the Fool”-ish “Blues Make Me Feel Good” take the listener more into blues territory.
Things get a bit funkier on such numbers as the horn-soaked instrumental “Lowdown’s Blues,” a cool and composed “Let Me Live My Life” and the hook-filled, vintage-sounding title track before the album closes on another highlight in the form of a light, easy cover of the gospel classic “You Gotta Move.”
Although many of us are just starting to hear about the 70 year-old Brown now, he’s been playing in Houston for some four decades, including opening for, accompanying or recording through the years with the likes of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, Trudy Lynn, Sister Sledge, Diunna Greenleaf, and Solomon Burke, and having been the winner of the Houston Blues Society’s first International Blues Challenge regional contest in 1997, with his band advancing to the challenge’s finals in Memphis.
Those decades of experience performing and polishing are very much evident on this album, and we’d be remiss in not offering our thanks to Music Maker Foundation for helping to shine the spotlight on another fantastic regional soul/bluesman from whom we hope to hear much more in the coming years!
Here’s a taste for you: one of our favorite tracks off the album, as much for the message as for the sound of it…