Oli Brown

Heads I Win Tails You Lose

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Veteran producer Mike Vernon, known for his work with John Mayall and other British blues stars of the 1960s on Decca Records' Deram label and his own Blue Horizon imprint, came out of retirement to handle this, the second album by 19-year-old guitarist and singer Oli Brown, and it's easy to tell why. Brown is very much in the tradition of the people Vernon used to work with, which is to say that he is steeped in that distinctly British version of the blues, a style that has a heavy complement of rock & roll in it. Enough teenagers have turned out competent blues guitar records to make Brown's authority, even at so young an age, believable. Fans always talk about the feeling necessary to play the blues, but the mechanics of it require a technical dexterity that can be commanded by players with young, supple fingers. Brown has such fingers, along with a good voice and an ability to come up with serviceable tunes. Has he suffered enough to play the blues? Maybe not, but he displays a combination of ability and freshness that overcomes the familiarity of the riffs and runs he plays; coming from him, they are not quite new, but certainly not as rote as they might be for an older musician whose pedigree might be better established.

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