Brown’s musical talents have always transcended commercial ups and downs. Whether he was at the top of the R&B charts or in obscurity, this blues singer and pianist has always maintained a high level of professionalism.
On this outing, the debut release for Rounder Records’ new subsidiary Bullseye Blues, however, Brown goes beyond even his usual excellence; All My Life stands as a landmark in a 45-year career. Brown leads off with one of his own compositions, “Early in the Morning,” which shows him in his most characteristic mode: cooing a slow blues over a gently rocking, tasteful trio accompaniment. The gospel oldie “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” is given another new lease on life with Brown’s moody interpretation. On “Joyce’s Boogie” he proves himself a master of that venerable piano tradition.
Blues diva and Black and Blue star Ruth Brown (no relation) joins him on the rollicking novelty “Tell Me Who,” and the excitement they generate puts it in the same league with Big Maybelle Smith’s classic ’50s version. In less capable hands the title track would be a maudlin ballad, but Brown saves it with a sweetness and depth of feeling.
As to the sidemen, there isn’t a weak link in the bunch, but longtime guitarist Danny Caron earns special mention for his elegant accompaniment.
This album marks more than a comeback; it’s a celebration. (Rounder/Bullseye Blues)