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Consistently excellent

Honey Dripper
Honey Dripper
By Charles Brown

Gitanes / Verve Records: 1996

This review first appeared in the October 18, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Charles Brown, now in the middle of his eighth decade with us, hasn't ever really his style of music. There have been no "periods" for Brown, no crossover releases. Whether topping the charts in the mid-'50s with "Drifting Blues" or "Please Come Home for Christmas," whether playing small clubs from the late 1960s through '70s when he was unjustly considered out of style, or whether opening for Bonnie Raitt on tour in the '90s as she allowed audiences to rediscover him, Brown's music has been consistent.

It is, in fact, a style Brown helped create: a piano-based, sophisticated jazz blues that informed both Nat "King" Cole and Ray Charles. It's a style Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records (which released one of Brown's earlier albums) tabbed "after-hours blues."

Now, while Brown may not have changed, he has certainly continued to grow and improve. He has gained in dignity and grace as he has aged; his old hits sound even better when he performs them now than they do on his original recordings. Brown has as distinctive a voice as you'll run across in popular music, and it's given no quarter to his advancing years. Nor has he lost anything in his piano playing, either – again, he's only improved.

There are some new Brown songs here, an old fave ("I Cried Last Night"), and some covers of great songs by the likes of Ray Noble and Joe Liggins, as well as a truly different version of the Count Basie/Joe Williams hit, "Everyday I Have the Blues."

Good stuff. Buy it, learn it, live it.