Shirley Brown


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Shirley Brown is one of those gritty, irrepressible, no-nonsense retro-soul singers coming straight from the bag of early Ruth Brown and especially Aretha Franklin. She's not a blues belter, a complainer, or a sultry siren, but a woman who puts up with no guff, and tells it like it is with authentic honesty and laser beam searing truth. Her themes are typical as woman-to-man couples tales go, pulling few punches and mincing no words. This CD, her first since 2005 and fourteenth overall, is straight, no chaser, Southern style rhythm & blues music with a solid backbeat, at times a bit '70s dance oriented, with a Muscle Shoals/Watt-Stax sound that has no interest in being updated, save the use of occasional synthesizers acting as a horn section. It's the kind of take it or leave it attitude that faded from popular view many years prior, but Brown still finds irrepressibly timeless. She's totally confused about love during "Upside Down" as Brown bounces off her background singers, regretful on the lighter "I Wish You Didn't Love Me So Good," and recites a letter to her lost lover for the lonely hours and past memories of "When I Hear Your Name." Her assertive side comes out in singing the hard, funky "Clean House" where her cheating significant other gets the boot, she's scolding on the following cut, Brown's own song "You Should'a Known Better," and declares the affair over and done with in the slow, confrontational tune of abject rejection "You Ain't Gonna Get No More of My Love." Brown has her tender, seductive moments during "Let Me Relax You" with its cool-down, disco straight beat, and is demanding in the sense that she's an all or nothing kind of woman as expressed on the strait-laced "If You Can't Hit It Right" and the hit song of the set, the good turned bad tune "(You Promised Me Heaven, But) You Gave Me Hell." Though the music is solidly in the groove, there's very little in the music that is uplifting or purely positive, but enjoyable as lessons in living and being a grown-up. It's far from a contemporary window into Brown's soul, with two-timing, heart-wrenching music, and a survivor's attitude at the core of her being.

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