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Chastity Brown - Back-Road Highways

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 27 / 5 / 2013

Chastity Brown - Back-Road Highways
Label: C & D Music Network
Format: CD


Eclectic and breathtaking fourth album from Tennessee-raised and now Minnesota-based soul artist, Chastity Brown

‘Back-Road Highways’ was released in the USA last year and, although it is the fourth album the Tennessee-raised, Minnesota-based singer/songwriter Chastity Brown, has released in her homeland it is the first that has been given an official release in the UK. It could be that the UK is now paying attention because one of the songs on Brown’s latest album, ‘After You’, was recently featured in the well-received BBC/HBO film ‘Mary & Martha’ and rightly gained a lot of praise. While ‘After You’ is a perfect introduction to the musical world of Chastity Brown (like a lot of the songs on ‘Back-Road Highways’ it is a smouldering yet restrained piece of work that incorporates so many different musical styles it simply demands your attention), it is not the best song on offer here; over eleven songs Brown really does carve out her own little niche. Vocally Brown is the owner of a voice that is immediately familiar, but try pinpointing exactly where you’ve heard those sultry, soulful vocals before and it is impossible. Much the same could be said not only of her captivating melodies but also of the overall sound Brown produces. Brown obviously appreciates many different genres of music and uses this awareness; she creates her own unique musical stew from so many different ingredients. Brown’s music has been described as coming from most genres; country, soul, blues, gospel and jazz to name the main ones, and there are not many artists who can straddle so many musical styles and still produce a sound that, although comfortably familiar, actually sounds contemporary and not in the least a forced facsimile of any one genre. Maybe that’s Brown’s biggest attraction; in spite of her obvious love of so many different musical styles she sounds original, she sounds real and there’s honesty in every word she sings which make her sound so believable. There is so much to discover through these songs. There is a warmth to the recordings, a Southern Soul feel at times, then suddenly you’re thoughts are on say Neil Young before Brown’s gospel roots are exposed again only then to give way to a Laurel Canyon soul/funk groove. Brown really has taken little elements from all your favourite genres to make her songs not only heartfelt but also extremely appealing. ‘Say It’, which is slotted near the end of the album, has the most striking opening you’ve heard in a while. As with all of Brown’s songs, it is immediately recognisable but just when you think you’ve nailed where you’ve heard it before the thought slips away. It is the same with Brown’s vocals. You’ll hear snatches of Nina Simone, Bonnie Bramlett, the list goes on, while Brown injects enough originality to stamp her own identity and sound over all the songs. The gospel/soul of ‘If You Let Me’, the closing song, is a breathtaking gem of a song, with those Southern Soul flourishes, a vocal performance to match that of any of the great soul singers and a melody that warms the heart it will have grown men weeping. But it actually brought a smile to this face, after hearing all these young pretenders on the radio who are trying so hard to express themselves through song and failing miserably here is the real thing, Brown makes it all seem so effortless. Already this year we have heard from some incredible female singers who are pushing boundaries and still finding new and exciting ways of making music, but Brown has surely put in the most vocally soulful performance of the year so far with ‘If You Let Me’. From the opening song, ‘House Been Burning’, a slow-burning blues hued cut that immediately grabs your attention and the place where you first fall in love with that voice, through the tender ‘Soley’ where Brown shows that vocally she is no one-trick-pony, to the authentic blues of ‘I Left Home’, taking in the banjo-drenched soul of ‘Leroy’ to that amazing closing song, Brown doesn’t disappoint for a second. Forget the genre hopping; Brown has produced the soul album of the year, simple as that.

Track Listing:-
1 House Been Burning
2 When We Get There
3 Solely
4 After You
5 I Left Home
6 Leroy
7 Lift Us
8 Could've Been A Sunday
9 Say It
10 Slow Time
11 If You Let Me

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Interview (2013)
Chastity Brown - Interview
Malcolm Carter chats to Minnesota-based singer-songwriter Chastity Brown about her debut UK release 'Back-Road Highways' which combines elements of folk, gospel, blues and jazz,

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