15 songs – 43 minutes
With an arsenal of more than 300 songs to her credit, blues shouter Mary Washington Brooks is a familiar voice to music patrons in Southeast Florida, where she delivers original tunes from a woman’s point of view.
A talented lyricist, she’s got plenty to sing about, having mined a life in which she grew up in a family with 12 children living next to a juke joint in Sarasota, Fla., raised a family of her own and worked full-time as a nurse and nursing administrator in Fort Lauderdale. She’s recorded three previous albums, two of which – “Best Seller” and “Country Blues” – were released on Cliff Ayers’ Emerald label. She left the stage for several years to care for her ailing mother after producing “Rock Your World,” but has penned all of the words for her 12 tunes on this disc. The musical arrangements come from the backing Beer Brothers Band, a West Palm Beach rock cover ensemble who’ve provided the charts as well as four odd, extremely short instrumentals.
Consisting of co-producer Doug Ellman on guitars, Jim Keegan on bass and Ray Williams on drums, the Beer Brothers are joined here by three longtime Fort Lauderdale blues/R&B favorites – keyboardist Motel Mel Seba, harmonica player Gustavo Lezcano and saxophonist Stuey Blue – who take the edge off as they provide more of a blues sound.
Brooks kicks off the disc, which is available through CDBaby, with the autobiographical “Called To Sing The Blues.” It’s a slow, loping tune with a good message: “Some people are called to the altar/To say a little prayer for you and me./Some people are called to the military/To help keep this great country free/But I was called/Yes, I was called to sing the blues.” A rapid-fire shuffle, “I Gotta Monkey On My Back,” follows featuring Motel Mel on the keys as Mary relates her desire to split from her lover, “a jackass of a man.” Ellman contributes a little call-and-response on the guitar before finishing the tune with a well-paced solo.
Lezcano’s harp comes to the fore for the intro to “A Woman Scorn,” in which Washington Brooks details what will happen if you cross a lover: “You’ll regret you were every born.” Another shuffle, “Don’t Short Change My Money,” follows with the drums high in the mix. After a six-second instrumental from the band, she launches into “Jonesin For The Blues,” clearly the best number so far. The arrangement gives her room to stretch out. A solo from Blue provides a welcome interlude.
“Miss Anne” is a five-minute blues-rocker with a psychedelic feel about a woman with magical powers before “Leave Your Checkbook On The Bed,” another uptempo shuffle dealing with the end of a relationship. Another instrumental — this time lasting 38 seconds — precedes “Looze My Number,” another shuffle in which Mary delivers the message that if you’re looking for someone to cook three meals a day or wash your clothes, you’d better look another way. Keyboards and horn come to the fore as the rest of the band controls the bottom.
Another Lezcano solo kicks off “I’m Hungry For Some Mo’ Of Your Love,” a song of desire after a night of sexual pleasure. Another 28-second instrumental leads in to “I’m My Momma’s Child,” “You Got Permission” and a 41-second instrumental, which closes out the set.
Washington Brooks’ vocal range is limited, but so was that of Koko Taylor, the late undisputed Queen Of The Blues. Mary’s passion for the music is boundless, and her lyrics are worth a listen.