Ruthy Brown. As low down and straight-talking as Bessie Smith and as funky and full-on as Aretha Franklin, in the 22nd Century, when they finally get to tell the story of post war music straight, she might finally get her dues. Shit, people will be doing degrees on this remarkable woman
These days, her name is rarely heard but back in the day she was soul music, she put the ‘R’ and the ‘B’ into R & B, she was the one everyone wanted to be. She had the sassiness and above all the voice to shake any joint she played. When Motown, took her sound and cleaned it up for the crossover audience she got left in the ‘race records’ box. Did she change? Did she hell.
This selection kicks off with ‘Yesterday’. Do we really need another version of this record? Well, surprisingly, it turns out we do. Ruth puts so much blues into this song that if she hadn’t thrown in some uplifting gospel, people’s hearts might have just stopped dead on hearing her cover.
Even this remarkable tune is completely overshadowed by the darkest blues ever recorded by a woman, ‘Miss Brown’s Blues’. Whether her voice is belting out the lines (sometimes soul-diva style, sometimes Janis Joplin drawl), shooting words at you whiplash style or dropping little comic asides, this tale of juvenile seduction and premature death is straight from the most hopeless place on Earth. You will never get out of these blues alive. As this is the only Ruth Brown composition on the CD, one listen and you’ll be searching for more.
The covers of course give you the opportunity to see what a remarkable interpreter of songs she was and to marvel at her powers of phrasing and vocal range. This recording from 1969 is to Ruth Brown what Elvis’ Vegas comeback shows were to his music. Mature, deep and if at times a little showbiz, you just have to open up and let her in.
Like Billie Holiday, no one should have had to live the life that Ruth Brown did but listening to her, one can only be profoundly moved that she got to make her statement and put her tracks down at all.
Ruth Brown – Black is Brown and Brown is Beautiful is re-released on Vampisoul