September 25, 2023
Michael Jerome Browne – Gettin’ Together

Michael Jerome Browne – Gettin’ Together

Borealis Records

14 Tracks – 51 Minutes

Michael Jerome Browne was born in South Bend, Indiana. His English professor parents loved music and took their young son to all of the great jazz and blues clubs in their adopted home of Montreal. At age 14, Michael was already playing regularly in the coffee house scene and showing a mastery of various guitar types, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and harmonica. Since 1999, he has received 33 nominations for Maple Blues Awards and received the Blues with a Feeling Award in 2020, He is also a three- time winner of the Canadian Folk Music Award (Traditional Singer, 2015; Solo Artist, 2012 and 2018) and a five- time nominee in both the Roots/Traditional and Blues categories at the Juno Awards.

He has worked with many blues artists over the years including playing with and co-producing Eric Bibb’s 2017 Grammy nominated album, Migrant Blues. His style is frequently referenced as country blues. On this album, he self-produced and gathered many of his old friends together to perform a historical cross-section of old-time blues songs.

He kicks things off with an acoustic version of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Monday Morning Blues”. He plays a 12-string guitar with his friend Harrison Kennedy on harmonica. Michael then pulls out a tenor guitar with Eric Bibb playing 9-string guitar and J.J. Milteau adding harmonica on Booker White’s “Shake ’em On Down”.

Mary Flowers joins on lap slide guitar with Michael’s traditional guitar for the instrumental “I’ve Got the Big River Blues”, first recorded by the Delmore Brothers, adapted by Doc Watson and later played by Lonnie Johnson. Mary and Michael then offer a duet with both on guitar and John Sebastian’s harmonica for Mississippi John Hurt’s “Coffee Blues”, which was Hurt’s version of the classic “Spoonful”.

Colin Linden and Michal both play guitar on Rube Lacy’s “Ham Hound Crave”. Colin and Michael first met in the 70’s and Michael has played with him many times over the years. Michael pulls out the 12-string guitar again for J.B. Hutto’s “Please Help” with Stephen Barry on string bass and John McColgan on drums.  Michael says in his liner notes that his version is utilizing a version played by J.B. Lenoir.

He next moves into what he calls a “mountain banjo-fiddle duet” on Booker White’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues” with Teilhard Frost on fiddle and Michael playing a gourd banjo. Michael follows that with a original solo instrumental, “Reverend Strut” on a 6-string banjo. He said he was given the chance to play the banjo originally used by Rev. Gary Davis, which is currently stored in Montreal.

Michael discovered a lost 1936 song, “Married Man Blues” from the relatively unknown musician Harold Holiday aka Black Boy Shine. Mary Flower joins him again on lap slide and Michael plays the 12-string guitar. Another obscure artist, Bayless Rose, recorded “Black Dog Blues” in the 1920’s. Mary Flower again joins on guitar with Michael on 12-string on what he references as mountain ragtime. Peetie Wheatstraw (actual name, William Bunch) and also known as the Devil’s Son-in-Law and The High Sheriff from Hell first recorded “Six Weeks Old Blues” in the 1930’s. Michael on guitar and Harrison Kennedy on harmonica delivers a fine version.

Mary Flowers and Michael join together for another instrumental, this time a new song, “Wisecrack” written by Mary for the album. “Diamond Joe” comes from a collection of music recorded by John Lomax at the Mississippi Parchman Prison Farm in the late 1930’s. The song was performed by Big Charlie Butlers, but an earlier version exists that was performed by the Georgia Crackers in the 1920’s. Teilhard again joins on fiddle with Michael on gourd banjo. The album ends with a rollicking version of Brownie McGhee’s “Living with the Blues”. Michael again playing the 12-string is joined by John Sebastain on harmonica, Happy Traum on lead guitar and John McColgan on washboard.

Michael’s slightly strained vocals well represents the old-time artists he honors with this recording. He and his guests offer very traditional interpretations of all of the songs.  This would be a must for those who love the sound of those old-time artists and maybe a revelation of a few long-forgotten musicians and songs.

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