Brown, who died last year at the age of 77, has long been touted in blues circles but is known primarily for a late-eighties rediscovery of his work thanks to progeny Bonnie Raitt and a slew of excellent nineties discs on the Verve/Gitanes label. Perhaps the reason the Texan was more talked of than heard of for the preceding two decades was because of the tremendous sophistication of his work - an inventive mix of Nat Cole, Memphis Slim and Ray Charles that conjured a gritty but still elegant vision of the blues. It’s a vision that might have played better in the dim light of the ‘Round Midnight jazz world. With his smoky after-hours baritone and a sparse, pecking piano style that maintained a slow, steady pulse of sensuality, Brown was a believer in less is more, everything-for-the-groove music. Not an act that played well in the barnstorming blues world of sixties and seventies Hendrix-meets-Buddy Guy guitar sailing.
Blues and Other Love Songs then is a quiet revelation for jazz and blues fans. Brown has the hesitant delivery and knack for vowel elongation of Shirley Horn and the sly humor minus the exultation of Ray Charles. He sounds like a weathered King Cole for the down and out set, graceful and light but without elitism and charmingly worse for wear. His piano generates a smile - grinding out the noble blues rhythms with a minimum of fuss and just right embellishment. He shares the solo spotlight on this disc (recorded in ’92) with guitarist Danny Caron and saxophonist Houston Person. In fact, its Person, as producer, who really dictates the mood of this highly successful disc - allowing a loose, late-night feel of common appreciation for the blues. With covers like a swinging "Mint Julep" and a solo, key rattling "’Round Midnight" the disc reminds us of a largely ignored piano master. On Brown originals like "I Put Myself Together", "What a Life" and "Before the Evening Sun Sets", we hear a case for the Texan as a great jazz composer. It’s a shame he was ignored by the jazz community though thankful we have this sweet shard of memory.