Review: Eden Brent – Mississippi Number One

Posted on: Saturday, May 23, 2009


“Mississippi Number One”

(Yellow Dog Records – YDR 1616)

This seems an appropriate time to review this fine release, as both the performer and the album are ‘award winning’ – as Eden Brent scooped the title of ‘Acoustic artist of the year’, and the album ‘Acoustic album of the year’ at the recent Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tennessee – formerly the W.C. Handy Awards.

Hailing from Greenville, Mississippi, Eden Brent’s blues and boogie piano – learnt from the veteran Boogaloo Ames – are prominent on this mix of blues, jazz, soul, gospel and pop, with the title referring to Mississippi State Highway 1, which runs parallel to its more famous neighbour, Highway 61 – with the album starting out as a solo record in 2006 as a tribute to her home and afore-mentioned blues highway, before becoming an ensemble piece.

Critics have described Brent as “Bessie Smith meets Diana Krall meets Janis Joplin”, and her fine, distinctive voice certainly has shades of those ladies. A generous 15 tracks feature her sparkling piano work, and prominent brass . . . with hardly a guitar or harmonica in sight . . . . most unusual in today’s blues, but are certainly none the worse for it!

The core band, apart from Eden Brent herself, features the rhythm section of Jimmi Kinnard (bass) and James Robertson (bass), with the organ of Rick Steff featuring on a good few tracks. The opening boogie of “Mississippi Flatland Blues” gets things off to a rousing start – lots of great piano and a fine vocal, she then gets funky on “He’ll Do The Same Things To You”, with punchy horns from Jim Spake (tenor saxophone) and Marc Franklin (trumpet).

The release contains three songs written by her late mother, Carole Brent – a fine actress and singer in her own right – with the smoky jazz of “Love Me ‘Til Dawn” particularly appealing, another gorgeous, warm vocal here. She turns to some country blues on the fun “Fried Chicken”, just accompanied by Rick Chancey on acoustic harmonica and guitar. The title track, “Mississippi Number One” is very autobiographical – about home and the road – and boogies along driven by her piano and the tight rhythm section.

George and Ira Gerswhin’s beautiful “The Man I Love” is another highlight – just voice and piano; with another solo performance on the traditional “Careless Love”. The full band get funky again on her own “Meet You Anywhere”, with the added bonus of the very fine Reba Russell on backing vocals.

Other highlights are the jazz-tinged “Afraid To Let Go”; a rousing boogie on her mother’s song “Close The Door”; but possibly best of all, a solo take on the immortal, classic “Trouble In Mind” – surely one of the best blues songs of all time – here with impassioned vocal and rolling ivories, a treat indeed! The closing “Until I Die” dips into gospel territory . . . with terrific backing from a six-piece choir.

In this era of loud guitars and over-produced recordings this is somewhat of a treat – produced by the lady herself in Memphis – and sounding just fine. Her ‘mama’, whom this album is dedicated to, would be very proud of her!


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