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I wish I had a cool story about where I learned about the blues. I never had an older brother who gave me his Howlin' Wolf records. There was no cousin who pointed out the line that runs backwards from Jimmy Page. Despite the early appearance of my inner music nerd, I doubt that I was curious enough at the time to perform my own investigations. The closest I came to a blues mentor experience was when my high school psychology teacher turned me on to folk singer David Bromberg. I totally dug the song Sharon," though I cared less about its blues essence than the fact that it was about a stripper. Duh.
No, the blues came to me from a source that's all but dead these days: the radio. For many years, WBGH radio in Boston broadcast a wonderful blues show on Friday and Saturday nights, hosted by Mai Cramer. She taught me all I needed to know, from Muddy Waters and Little Walter to Magic Sam and Koko Taylor. One of Mai's favorite artists was Pinetop Perkins. In fact, her show used to start off with his After Hours," a tune that never failed to transport me to a place I hadn't been yet. This feeling was hard to pin down, but it seemed like I had been rushed through the rest of my life, survived worlds of hurt, and was finally sitting on my back porch, taking it all in. Weird. Especially for a young man living in suburbia.
Or maybe it's not that weird at all. Maybe it's something that happens when you experience music that's truly authentic. Music that's built on honesty.
I get that same feeling when listening to Eden Brent. Her sultry voice and organic piano playing echo the intent of her mentor Abie Boogaloo" Ames as well as blues piano great Pinetop Perkins. The fact that Ain't Got No Troubles was recorded in a manner honoring the music (analog tape, a single room, no overdubs, no added reverb) helps to push Brent's particular genius into the foreground. Add to that a New Orleans locale (Piety St. Studios), some Meters vibe (bassist George Porter Jr.), and producer/guitarist Colin Linden, who has worked with the likes of Sue Foley, Cassandra Wilson, and Mavis Staples, and you've got the recipe for some deep listening.
Given this lineup, you won't be surprised to learn that the music takes from many blues-related genresBoogie-woogie blues ("Let's Boogie-Woogie"), cool swing ("Later Than You Think), soulful strut (the opening Someone To Love" just kills with those horns and Eden's soaring solo), and the old-time naughty jazz of My Man."
The subtle power of Brent's voice is put on display on the songs that lean more toward soul: Beyond My Broken Dreams," and the slow & soulful Leave Me Alone" supported by organ, horns, and some killer slide work by Linden. Speaking of power, Brent chose to close out the album with a gorgeous version of Wil Kimbrough's Goodnight Moon." This presentation manages to distill what Brent is about these days: beginning with just voice and piano, Brent lays out the story of longing before the bass & drums kick in. The ballad shifts to full-on soul for a bit (thank you horns) before we again have Eden and her piano.
Somewhere Abie Boogaloo" Ames is smiling. Pinetop is still smiling! It doesn't get any more honest than that.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.