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Here I Am

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Album Review

"Ain't trying to be no Jimi or Stevie/I want to be my G-damned self," proclaims up and coming U.K. blues rocker Oli Brown on the lead-off title track to his third release. He follows up that defiant declamation with a shuffle that nicks the lick from Vaughan's "Cold Shot" on the derivative "Thinking About Her." Whether he realizes that or not, it's a good indication that there aren't many guitar players bringing new or fresh ideas to the table in this genre. Just 22 when this album was released in 2012, you can forgive Brown for his youthful enthusiasm, especially when there is so much energy exuding from these dozen tracks, all but two self-composed. Like many of his peers, he whips off some solid riff rockers such as "Manic Boom" and "Devil in Me," and a convincing enough Chuck Berry lick in "Start It Again" with skill and talent. His boyish vocals are charming if not quite as edgy as some of his angrier lyrics about lost love require, even if he did win Best Male Vocalist at the 2010 British Blues Awards. Brown can write a hummable, soulful melody, as on the ballad "All We Had to Give"; it's as good as any pop song on the charts with the extra enticement of a tasty guitar solo. But a reasonably hot cover of Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears gem "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" points out that nothing here is up to that song's quality. Too much of Brown's material just isn't unique or powerful enough to break him free from others plying similar territory who can also sling out a strong guitar lick and write good, not great, material. When he gets down and somewhat dirty on the swampy "You Can Only Blame Yourself" and a bit funky on "Remedy," he's staking out more fertile area. There isn't really enough of that, though, to make this the album that will elevate his status, especially in the States, where he is another also-ran in a crowded field trying to establish himself among many similarly talented musicians.

Customer Reviews

Class

Great album from a class act.
Awesome guitarist. Great singer. Brilliant band.
Love the album and lived seeing them live.

Whitesnake hair but no copyist.

Oli Brown has said that his new album, Here I Am, is a statement of self. Making sure that he’s no longer in anyone’s shadow, and that he can leave the comparisons behind. It certainly starts in bold form with the title track opening the proceedings with it’s claim that he “Ain’t no Jimi, Ain’t no BB” and with the way the song is performed it’s a powerful message, and one that carries on throughout the record.
He has certainly matured and grown into his talent, he’s singing better, playing better guitar and has backed off from some of the theatrical flash that I once linked with him. Songs, too, have improved. They’re all originals and Oli has written the lot, occasionally calling in the aid of his former bass player Ron Sayer Jr. Themes are fairly typical of the blues genre, lost love and lust are prevalent, but they’re dealt with in a way that is original and remarkably mature, and really form the backbone of the record, guitar playing now serves the song rather than the other way round, and the richer voice that Oli is now in possession of is really taking an equal part in the proceedings. That isn’t to say that his impressive skills as a guitar slinger have taken a back seat, anything but, however he is holding back from the full on attack, an approach that pays dividends, making sure that the points where he does choose to cut lose are even more impressive. It’s now a spoonful of sugar in your tea rather than a spoonful of tea in your sugar, to use one of my oft used phrases. This has made this a much more listenable album than his past efforts. I enjoyed Open Road, but Here I Am is by far the better collection, the maturity is king here.
Production is wonderful, it’s well recorded and mixed, and is easy to listen to. Guitar tones fit the songs and instrumentation is chosen with care. The band are more a part of the show this time, and while the focus is definitely on Oli, they are an equal partner in creating some wonderful music. Dynamic is an easy word to throw around, but this album is a masterclass in dynamics, when the drums drop out in the midst of the slow burning I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, there’s an emotional tension that is just breathtaking.
So has Oli achieved his intention? For the most part yes, it’s his most mature and complete work yet, and will surely be making waves in the UK and world blues scene. However he hasn’t separated himself from all comparisons, but then he never could. People will always pick up on similarities between musicians, and Oli is still influenced by many fine musicians, but now those influences have been assimilated almost invisibly into Oli’s playing it’s certainly not a copycat record.
In fact, there’s only one obvious comparison you can make. Oli’s current hairstyle is obviously a direct homage to Coverdale era Whitesnake. But that shouldn’t and will not lessen anyone’s enjoyment of this superb disc. Oli has done it. This is an excellent and individual collection, mature and powerful, it really does set out it’s stall cementing Oli’s claim as one of the leading forces in British blues.

Fantastic!!

Saw these guys in Manchester last week, amazing performance, the album is an absolute must buy!!!!

Biography

Genre: Blues

Years Active:

Blues guitarist and singer Oli Brown made his recording debut at age 17 with Open Road, released June 9, 2008, by Ruf Records. He toured Europe, opening British tours by Johnny Winter, Walter Trout, and Robben Ford. In 2010, he was part of the New Generation Blues Tour of Europe with labelmate Joanne Shaw Taylor and made his debut at the Glastonbury Festival. These performances were in support of his second album, Heads I Win Tails You Lose, produced by blues veteran Mike Vernon,...
Full bio
Here I Am, Oli Brown
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  • £8.99
  • Genres: Blues, Music, Jazz
  • Released: 16 April 2012

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