Harpdog Brown
For Love Or Money
Dog House Records

Deep and Thoughtful Jumpin’ and Jivin’ R&B from Canada.

This the review that very nearly didn’t get writ; after I tried to delete one word and lost the lot with no capability of retrieving the draft!
Any ways, it’s an album I’m excited about so here’s attempt #2.
While there are surprises around every corner here; the biggest one is that this swing and jumpin’ and jivin’ R&B exponent comes from Vancouver and not New Orleans; but boy has he got Bourbon Street in his DNA.
The Saturday Night Party gets off to a rollicking start with No Eyes For Me, with Brown giving it his all as a Hammond B3 and an authentic bunch of Rhythm n Bluesers play their little hearts out in the background.
Not only does Harpdog Brown have a warmly distinctive rasp to his singing; with nods to Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and even Tom Waits at time but he has pulled together a wonderful band that includes some smooth and scintillating piano and organ from Dave Webb, and in drummer and bassist Jerry Holmes and Bob Grant who hold everything together like industrial glue plus a brass section that sounds like they were all born on the Bayou. There are numerous ‘Guest Stars’ too from across the Canadian music scene; but primarily this all about Harpdog Brown himself.
The good times really do roll on Vicious, Vicious Vodka and Thinkin’ & Drinkin’; but even here listen carefully and there is a darkness in the shadows too; and that darkness comes to the fore on One Step Forward and the haunting Stiff.
While some songs have been written especially for this album, with the title track For Love and Money coming from the pen of Dave Webb; I’m no longer up to speed with this genre; so didn’t recognise Memphis Slim’s The Comeback and Money or Wynonie Harris’s Buzzard Luck, but that’s not really the point here, is it …….. this album is about Harpdog Brown and his fabulous interpretations of this belting bunch of songs.
Brown either wrote or had a hand in writing three songs here, Stiff, No Eyes For Me and the timeless and marvelously tongue in cheek Reefer Lovin’ Woman; which surely must be a Modern Jumpin’ Jive Classic surely?
While I love the rinky-dinky juke-joint melodies that are the backbone of the album, my actual favourites are two really slow ballads that owe more to early Tom Waits than Louis Jordan; with A New Day is Dawning just about shading it from the beautiful Sasha’s Lullaby which closes the album in the most delightful way.
If I’ve got any misgivings, it’s the lack of harmonica from this Bluesman; because when he blows his harp ‘magic happens’ but I guess that he’s made albums featuring these skills previously and this album is more about ‘the songs’ to play in the comfort of your own home; regardless of whether you’ve ever seen Harpdog Brown’s electrifying live sets.

Released 26th April 2019

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