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New Orleans' and Louisiana's Music Magazine
New Orleans' and Louisiana's Music Magazine
Reviews :: April 2002  

Texas Johnny Brown
Blues Defender
(Choctaw Creek)

It’s not often that a musician thanks God for anything other than success, but in the liner notes to this CD, the follow-up to 1999’s amazing solo debut Nothin’ But The Truth, that’s just what Texas Johnny Brown does. Specifically, giving props to the Almighty for his “sense of taste for music, the feel for the notes, and the ability to incorporate good taste.” Then again, if you’ve heard this blues guitar master, you already know all that; Texas is his first name, but taste is his middle name. This is, after all, the man who wrote Bobby “Blue” Bland’s classic “Two Steps From The Blues,” and a similar smooth grace covers this CD like a plush upholstery.

Not that Johnny’s gone soft. This is more of the same stuff we got on Truth: elegant yet raw guitar licks, world-weary vocals, some damn tasty piano and B-3, and the delicate sadness that is Brown’s songwriting. With the tracks melting into one another, it’s practically one long meditation on the darkness of the human spirit, albeit with plenty of fat, danceable grooves.

The uptempo tracks serve as short bursts of fun-Brown is no doubt the first bluesman to use a “Bad Hair Day” as a metaphor, and the title track is one of the more effective second-line blues struts committed to CD-but it’s the slow burners that really bring out Brown’s many geniuses. “Moanin’ And Groanin’” is a pure Bland-style weeper that features Brown’s best guitar, and it shifts so effortlessly into the resolve of “Just Can’t Do It” that the songs sound like chapters of a book. Moreover, the graveside-quiet closer “Rained Out” finds Brown in such a state of grace he freestyles in a duet with the rain itself. Not just a worthy follow-up, Blues Defender is a big step forward for the Houston sound, and a milestone in atmospheric blues releases.

-Robert Fontenot

Copyright ©2002, OffBeat, Inc.
Reprinted with permission