Blackburn- Brotherhood



Make It Real Records

I’m fortunate to have made some solid connections while writing over the past decade. As a result, I am fairly well supplied by independent labels and artists. The major label conglomerates ignore me, and that’s fine; I have a tough enough time finding the means to review much of what I receive in the mail. As I type, there are two knee-high piles of releases beside my desk, awaiting my attenting.  I know, thy burdens are greater than mine.

Sometimes it takes a bit of something extra to make me notice a release from artists I’m unfamiliar with. Perhaps it is a surprisingly inventive or complete press package, like that which accompanied Willie Mack’s impressive album The Journey. Sometimes, a handwritten note will get my attention, especially one written on a page torn from a vintage Canadian tretise as did Woodland Telegraph’s Matthew Lovegrove. A beautiful package- such as those designed for Northern Blues by A Man Called Wycraft- certainly cause notice. While such artful touches aren’t in themselves enough to garner a positive notice, they may push a disc to the top of the listening pile.

There is absolutely nothing to recommend the Brotherhood release from Ontario’s Blackburn. Until you listen to it! Making the mistake of packaging an album in a generic cover, the Toronto soul brothers do their funk-influenced blues music a regrettable disservice. As a result, I’ve had the disc for months and hadn’t found inspiration to listen to it until this weekend. My bad.

Bringing The Neville Brothers immediately to mind- and not just because of a timely and inspired cover of Sister Rosa– the quartet produces a sound that is fuller than their numbers would indicate. Simultaneously, the disc- whipped off in two days last fall- has a very polished effect, with well-mixed vocals and the individual instruments fully discernable.

Lead singer Duane Blackburn has a smooth soulful blues voice, while Brooke Blackburn lays down solid rhythm and lead guitar effects. Brooke’s songs- Movin’, Survival, Talk to Me, and notably Four Brothers surpass blues clichés and Duane’s Soul Searching wouldn’t be out of place on a Mem Shannon disc.

Tying together the Blackburn revue is the rhythm section of Cory Blackburn and Mark Ayee, who propel each song with idiosyncratic grooves, allowing Duane to explore his Booker T-side with furious Hammond B3 flourishes.

Blues band albums are- to me- largely a dime a dozen. Mostly, I find them a bore, seemingly produced by a neverending stream of balding and goteed electric guitar wankers. Unfair, I know, but there you go. It takes something distinctive to find favour with me. Blackburn has It in their blend of funk, soul, and blues sounds, beautifully displayed on Brotherhood.

To be fair to the art direction team, the black and white photos of the band are well-lit and finely composed. The lettering on the album is clear and sharp. It just isn’t distinctive enough to ‘grab’ the eye, or at least my eye.

Fully recommended.

Check out their sample tunes at MySpace/com/blackburnbrothers. You may have to do some searching to find the disc for sale- I haven’t seen it in any area stores- but it is readily available from CD Baby, a company I’ve dealt with without regret in the past.

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