Here I Am
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
British blues sensation Oli Brown seems to want to live up to the accolades bestowed upon him. Unleashing blues with rock-hard muscular riffs and notes having somewhat of a kinship to the late Gary Moore is what keeps Here I Am in your CD changer for days on end.
While not possessing the shred capacities of Moore or Walter Trout doesn’t mean Brown can’t deliver the goods with solid songwriting and hooks sandwiched in the right places. The opening title track is a great attention grabber and Brown’s way of announcing to the world that being his own journeyman will be his success ticket. The following cut, “Manic Bloom,” is a blues shuffle played up with a coat of heavy-metal paint, so if you were looking for Texas-style blues then you’ve come to the wrong place. It’s a synthesis of Moore and Peter Green running a parallel course until their paths entwine with choruses going back to the early days of vintage Chicago.
Brown seems content to knock a listener broadside and he does it once again in the ominous thunder of “All We Had To Give.” It’s not to say that the youngster is averse to covering ballads. The classic Blood, Sweat & Tears staple “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” is one of those few moments Oli brings things down to a whisper, making you realize the kid knows the importance of shifting the dynamics. It’s something he attempts in “You Can Only Blame Yourself,” which is another breather from his flame-throwing techniques. When he solos, it’s short and sweet and lets it be in service to the song.
Of course, bandmates like bassist Scott Barnes, keyboard player Joel White, and drummer Wayne Proctor can’t be ignored in their supporting roles. They rev the engines throughout the material and step back when the volume is turned down. It’s more of a hard-rock envelope that’s getting pushed with a blues stamp than a museum antique as Brown seems to want to move beyond the basic templates of experimentation. No blues is to be found in “Start It Again” as it is best described as a moderate rocker that plods along until it tumbles into “Devil In Me” where Brown finds himself writing a shuffle once again although the results seem tired and Oli just wanted to fill some space.
“Remedy” is another good-hearted attempt at writing a groove-based rocker, but Brown seems to be running on fumes at this point. He half successfully fills the tank on “Mr. Wilson,” which makes an effort to climb with shaky footing as Oli gives it the fretwork it needs to stay afloat. British harp man Paul Jones hooks up with Brown on the finale track, “Solid Ground,” which is a good way of ending things as it picks up the pace and leaves you wistfully thinking this kind of vibe could of permeated the other tunes.
Praise has to be given to this kid for wanting to expand the boundaries of the blues. The results are sometimes uneven. Being rough around the edges is sometimes better than being overly polished and too generic; that can ruin the best of recordings.
Gary Weeks is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
About the Author: