Home Jason's Jukebox The Chat Room: Graham Brown

The Chat Room: Graham Brown


On his 13th album, Solo, Graham Brown performs in just that manner, showcasing his skills as both a singer-songwriter and guitarist as he’s never done before on record. For the Vancouver B.C.-based artist, the decision to go it alone was made almost as a personal challenge after establishing his reputation as one of Canada’s finest electric guitarists over the past three decades.

On Solo‘s 12 original songs, Graham’s performances both shimmer like early morning sunshine (“Twister Like”), and glow like the dying flickers of a late night candle (“You Are The Stars”). Utilizing just his vintage acoustic guitars, with harmonica added whenever necessary, Graham shows he’s no run-of-the-mill folkie, as the songs are built around uncommon chord progressions, with the emphasis firmly placed on melodies that allow his voice to take full flight.

On tracks like “Because Of You” and “Girl From The Peg,” Graham even sounds like a more mature Alex Chilton circa Big Star’s #1 Record. But with his musical roots stretching back to the dawn of the “cow-punk” movement in the 1980s, Graham admits that he mainly leaned on his love of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Petty when crafting most of the songs on Solo.

On the whole, that’s meant taking the road less travelled throughout his career. But that road has still brought him and his band around the world, from The Cavern Club in Liverpool and The Marquee in London, to The Roxy and The Troubadour in Los Angeles, along with CBGB in New York City. Capturing that purity in his performances is something that Graham strives for above all these days. While he’s always earned the respect of his guitar-playing peers, with Solo, he makes a solid case for his songwriting prowess as well.

To hear more, go to Graham Brown’s Bandcamp page, or grahambrownsongs.com.

Your new album, Solo, is indeed your first collection of songs with just you and your acoustic guitar. What motivated you to do that at this point in your career?
I’ve always wanted and planned to make a solo acoustic record. As per usual with band commitments, etc., it just took me this long to get to it. I’m always writing songs, so this group of songs basically were calling out to me that they needed to be recorded this way. For me, no matter what, I try to stay true to the music. The song is in charge; I didn’t sit down and say to myself, “Okay, I’m going to write a bunch of acoustic songs.” I was writing some rocking band songs at the same time, and those will be on the next band record. I just felt an aching that these solo songs were a standalone thing, and now was the time.

The songs seem to deal with a wide range of emotions. Are you starting to feel more reflective at this stage of your life, and feel more comfortable channeling that into your songwriting?
I’m not sure if all songwriters feel this way, but for me as a songwriter I’ve always been reflective in thought and always been an observing participant. In conversation or just hanging out, a simple word or action can inspire me — as well as a piece of paper and a nearby quality pen. I think as time goes on we all feel somewhat reflective of the lessons learned on the way through this life. Regarding confidence, I’ve always felt confident to speak my mind and heart in either song or day-to-day life. I feel comfortable in my skin.

Is there anything specific that inspired the album’s first single “You Are The Stars”?
All the songs on the album mean a lot to me, just like every record I make. I put my heart and soul into these songs and performances. I can only hope that people will feel an emotion when they listen, or perhaps the songs can take them somewhere in time or evoke a feeling. Choosing the song “You Are The Stars” as the first single seemed a natural to me. The song evokes love, togetherness, and a search for more self-understanding and reflection of the weaknesses we all have. We are stronger together. To me that sorta covers the feeling of the entire album. Besides that, I think it’s a beautiful song and a superb live performance.

From a guitar playing standpoint, do you take a different approach on acoustic than on electric?
Yes and no. Whether I’m playing electric or acoustic, I let the song speak for itself. I really am just the messenger channeling these songs. Obviously, there aren’t any screaming wah-wah acoustic solos in these songs, although I have done a few screaming wah-wah acoustic things live in the past, and they were a blast. I just didn’t think it was needed here. As I said, the song shows me the lane for the road ahead.

Will you be playing solo shows in support of this album, and what other immediate plans do you have?
Yes, I’ll be doing live solo gigs over the next year or so to support this release. At the moment I’m working with my agent to book shows in Canada and Europe. I’m looking forward to sharing my schedule soon.



Rhiannon Giddens / You’re The One (Nonesuch)
Beginning in 2005 with her group the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has been at the forefront of opening up country and Americana to new voices and approaches. Crucially, her skills at both traditional banjo and fiddle playing reconnected those instruments to Black culture, leading to collaborations with the likes of T Bone Burnett, and setting the stage for other artists such as Allison Russell and Kaia Kater. You’re The One follows 2017’s Freedom Highway, and once again presents Rhiannon in a variety of settings. “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad” kicks things off with some southern funk, but by “Yet To Be” (featuring Jason Isbell), the influence of Rhiannon’s new Irish home base is evident in its jaunty arrangement. “You Louisiana Man” adds some zydeco to the mix, while “Who Are You Dreaming Of” hearkens back to classic Tin Pan Alley. But it’s when Rhiannon keeps things soulfully sticky, as on “Wrong Kind Of Right,” that she sounds best. As with all artists who aren’t easily categorized, the genre hopping on You’re The One is both its strength and weakness. Some tracks may take some time to absorb, but the majority of the album is another fine display of Rhiannon’s musical dexterity.

Teddy Thompson / My Love Of Country (Chalky Sounds)
As the son of British folk-rock royals Richard and Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson always faced an uphill climb in establishing his own music career. To his credit, he never tried to follow in his parents’ footsteps as a singer-songwriter, instead leaning on vintage Nashville sounds in order to establish his own reputation, particularly on his 2007 album Upfront & Down Low. My Love Of Country sounds almost like a sequel to that record, with nearly all of its 10 songs being stone country classics. Now in his late 40s, Teddy has also matured to the point where his versions of George Jones’s “A Picture Of Me (Without You),” Buck Owens’s “Cryin’ Time” and Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” are utterly convincing. Giving a nod to his father with his “I’ll Regret It All In The Morning” is a nice touch as well, and it fits in seamlessly with the album’s overall Billy Sherrill-esque production. Teddy Thompson isn’t the kind of artist you’re likely to see in a cowboy hat and Nudie suit, but My Love Of Country may be one of the purest country records to appear this year.

Neil Young / Chrome Dreams (Warner Music Canada)
Even hard core Neil Young fans have faced challenges in keeping up with the amount of releases in recent years that have unearthed his many buried projects from a fertile mid-‘70s period. Those who’ve managed to do it have been treated to alternative glimpses of what the albums American Stars ‘N Bars, Comes A Time and Rust Never Sleeps could have been, and the full picture finally seems filled in with the arrival of Chrome Dreams, scheduled for 1977 before being abruptly yanked in Neil’s typically mercurial fashion. All of the songs are familiar, from an overdub-free “Pocahontas” to the chilling “Look Out For My Love,” but presented in this context, they show how Neil was searching for a new approach that ultimately coalesced with Rust Never Sleeps, the most satisfying album in his immense catalogue, according to some critics (me included). Yet, these songs, with the exception of “Like A Hurricane,” were captured in hazy, intimate moments, a setting that’s likewise often most conducive to appreciating Neil’s work. Perhaps that’s why he got gun-shy in the end with Chrome Dreams, although four-plus decades on, the magic remains palpable.


The Lonesome Ace String Band / “Praying For Rain” (Independent)


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