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Oli Brown - Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Ruf Records RUF 1160

12 Tracks - 52mins 50secs

To be quite honest, Oli Brown is barely a household name in the UK and in the USA his name is still well below the horizon but that is now. Here’s a prediction You Just Wait. IMHO this young man is gonna be BIG. He is still only 19 years old and has a couple of years touring Europe behind him already. This is his second CD on Ruf Record and my goodness, it’s a good ’un. Not only that but Mr Brown has just been voted as the Male Vocalist of the Year (sponsored by Blues In the South ) in the inaugural British Blues Awards announced in early September 2010. (Check out the full list of winners at

Oli is one of the growing number of young British musicians with one foot and a good portion of a leg in the blues with the other foot and most of the other leg in the rock pile. He clearly has influences as an axe man that range from Hendrix through to jazzers like Herb Ellis and Barney Kessell and as a singer from Hendrix (again) to Lonnie Johnson and Muddy.

This CD, produced by Mike Vernon, the mover behind early recordings of Clapton and Peter Green, shows Oli’s talents remarkably well.

Twelve tracks, only two more than 5 minutes long, feature a band consisting of Gary Rackham, bass; Jamie Little, drums and percussion; and Dave Lennox, Keyboards, which is tight and comes with well thought out arrangements. The opener, ‘EvilSoul’ is a foot tapper with an excellent work out by Little and really gets you in the mood for what follows.

‘Good Tme’ is a seriously funky piece in the James Brown tradition and ‘Take A Look Back’ is similarly funky, but this time, less James Brown and more jazz inflected - like the best of Blood Sweat and Tears, and with a guitar sound/tone that reminds me of the more laid back work produced by Billy Gibbons when he is not in heavy rock mode.

‘I Can Make Your Day’ is a bass riff driven piece, almost guaranteed to get the girls screaming and strongly in the tradition of Muddy Waters’, who’s self-confirmed efforts in his music were often aimed at getting the ladies into bed.

Justifying his award as a singer rather than as a guitarist (he was also nominated in the British Blues Awards as Guitarist of the Year and Young Artist of the Year) the outstanding vocal tracks are ‘Fever’ and ‘No Diggity’, the first best know from its cover version by Peggy Lee of the Little Willie John hit in 1950’s, and ‘No Diggity‘ the R&B, New jack swing, G-Funk/West Coast hip hop hit by American R&B group Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen. Brown sings the parts the of 1996 hit by Blackstreet: so no rappin’ here.

‘Love’s Gone Cold’ at 7 mins + is a serious late night blues with some sexy Herb Ellis type chording and comes with some excellent single string fills which should have blues aficionados learning the licks in sheds, garages and bedrooms across the western world.

The closer ‘(I Feel) On Top Of The World’ says it all really. Well he should do, shouldn’t he? Mike Vernon came out of retirement to work with this young man he is being nominated for and winning awards and he’s only 19. God, I feel so old.Strongly recommended.

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer  and has a webcast regular blues radio show on Phonic FM in Exeter (1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).

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