Judy Brown – Say It
512 Music Publishing/Bluestime Productions
CD: 13 Songs, 47:15 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs
“It grows on you.” This old adage is as common as hay fever in early fall. The more times you see or hear something, the more you get used to it, and eventually, the more you like it. That’s what happens in the case of Canadian Judy Brown and her new release, Say It. Characterized as a “re-entry album” featuring “stories of love, loss and resilience,” this CD is peppy, pleasant, and perfect for a pick-me-up. Judy Brown’s voice may not equal those of her influences Loretta Lynn and Bonnie Raitt; then again, who can shine as brilliantly as country/blues rock icons? In the course of thirteen original songs, full of witty lyrics and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, Brown hits several flat notes, but who cares when you’re dancing and singing along? Her strengths are songwriting and a sassy spirit. Even on her slow numbers (“I Dream,” “Shifting Sand”), she wears her heart on her sleeve. Accompanied by an excellent ensemble, Judy struts her stuff.
Say It represents a journey in roots music and blues that began in Edmonton followed by thirty years in Toronto. Music moved to Brown’s back burner in the ‘90s when she focused on raising her two children. Performing abated, but the songwriting continued. In 2017, Judy made two life-changing decisions. First, a move to Nelson, British Columbia to be close to family and enmesh herself in that community’s rich and supportive arts scene. Second, a return to recording with longtime musical friends, collaborators and producers Gary Kendall and Teddy Leonard.
Accompanying our leading lady (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, and harmonica for track eleven) are Teddy Leonard on electric and acoustic guitars, dobro and slide; Gary Kendall on bass; Michael Fonfara on piano and organ; Jim Casson on drums and percussion; Emily Ekelund, Bessie Wapp, Samantha Martin, Sheri Marshall and Stacie L. Tabb on background vocals; Colin Linden on mandolin, and Jeff Baker on harmonica for track ten.
The tracks below are catchy on the first listen and bona-fide earworms on one’s second or third.
Track 02: “Roberta” – In the opinion of yours truly, not enough love songs are about friendship. Sure, we’ve got “Lean on Me” and the theme songs from Friends and Cheers, but what if one’s pals aren’t around? With a fantastic guitar intro a la Eric Clapton and gorgeous background vocals, Judy implores her globe-trotting bestie to return to the home front: “You’ve been gone too long; get back here where you belong, Roberta.”
Track 08: “Free Range Man” – Listen closely, because the descriptions of this song’s subject will have one giggling, if not rolling on the floor: “He knows all about living on the land; you know he built his home with his own two hands…He’s got all his teeth and a big-ass beard; when a grizzly comes around, he ain’t scared.” Check out the cheeky organ by Michael Fonfara and backup vox from Emily Ekelund.
Track 12: “Fresh Bait” – There’s fishing, and then there’s fishing. Judy’s up to this sneaky second kind in the album’s penultimate track. “I’m trawling for the big one; I hope he’ll catch my line, and I’ll reel him in slow. I love to take my time.” This jazz-infused number would be a hit at nightclubs and beach bars, as well as Sirius XM.
I have to Say It on the level: Judy Brown’s latest takes more than one listen to love, but once you hit “replay” a couple of times, you’ll be caught hook, line and sinker!