Reviews

 

Mel Brown The DVD - Electro-Fi Records

Talkin' Blues' Mako Funasaka would seem to be the obvious choice to do a documentary on Mel Brown - being relatively local gave him the time to get to know his subject and he clearly has the talent that warrants respect, but it was still a two-year effort to get Mel to agree to just talk about the music he plays so well. That interview, or series of interviews, combined with concert footage and of the Blues -A Beautiful Thing sessions, forms the backbone of this 105-minute triumph. To hear the normally silent Mel speak his mind about his recent health problems, winning a Handy Award, growing up in Mississippi, and his music is a revelation, aided in no small part by Mako's sensitive questioning. The segments on discrimination in the south and on his wariness about the record industry are fascinating. Musical highlights are many: "Red Cross Store"; "Come Back Baby", given an impassioned performance sitting at the piano in the studio; "Headed South", Mel & Snooky Pryor live with The Homewreckers, with some effective visuals of the South edited in (from Mojo Ramble); Finis Tasby's "Mean Old World", from What my Blues Are All About and Fruteland Jackson's "Laura Marie" from Blues 2.0. All feature Mel on guitar or piano and all serve as pointed illustrations for the interview or as marvelous examples of Mel's valuable contributions as a session player. Some of these are different versions from the issued ones, a benefit perhaps intended for us collectors. The official release of The DVD will be at the Silver Dollar Room on June 24th, with Julian Fauth opening. It will also be available at www.electrofi.com or at Sam The Record Man.

John Valentyne - Toronto Blues Society Maple Blues Magazine - June 2006

 

Mel Brown's saga is one of the more fascinating in modern music: from poverty in Mississippi to L.A. studio musician work with Etta james, Johnny Otis, B.B. King and others. to Bobby Bland's touring band, to Nashville as an outlaw country artist, and then back to blues as a member of the Antone's house band in Austin. Brown finally landed in Ontario, Canada, where he has lived since 1989.

Opening with testimonials to Mel Brown's great musicianship from notable blues musicians, Mel Brown: The DVD does a fine job of corroborating their rave opinions with recent footage of Brown playing guitar (acoustic and electric) and piano and singing a variety of recording sessions, concerts, and festivals. About a dozen musical selections are offered here, before, between, and sometimes during interview segments.

Brown's indomitable spirit is evident as he performs and records even while taking oxygen from a nose tube for emphysema. But tedious interview questions ("Tell me about hitting wrong notes..." and "How do you feel?") waste time that ought to be filled by performances. Also shot variously in sepia tone, black and white, and color, the film seems disjointed.

Nevertheless, the music itself is of the highest calibre and the camerawork gives ample coverage of Brown's fretwork as well as his easy and professional interaction with the other musicians, fully conveying a sense of his brilliant musicianship. Brown's friendship and musician partnership with harmonical blower Snooky Pryor is covered, as is his work with his strong working and of Canadian musicians.

Hard to resist a chance to watch up close as Mel Brown creates his marvelously extemporaneous music.

Justin O'Brien - Living Blues Magazine - Issue #185 July/August 2006

 

Talkin’ Blues Presents Mel Brown (Electro-Fi Records)

Mel Brown is the epitome of a musician’s musician: a shy, soft-spoken soul who treads lightly on this earth but who has left so much behind in terms of his craft – one that he has further elevated because of his distinctive approach to it. Hardly known for his gift of gab, this humble giant spent so much time with documentarian and Talkin’ Blues series director Mako Funasaka that he finally felt enough at ease to share insights on the music business, his faltering health, life in the Delta as well as an ’insider’ glimpses into the studio for samples of Mel’s esteemed guitar and keyboard playing. Context is everything and who best to define Mel and his impact on artists than the artists themselves – Bobby “Blue” Bland, Rusty Zinn, Snooky Pryor? The list goes on and this peek into the mastery that is Mel Brown and his sizeable contribution is a joy to behold in this sensitive and loving tribute.

Eric Thom - Blues Revue