For over forty years since they formed a partnership in 1942, harmonica player/singer Sonny Terry and guitarist/vocalist Brownie McGhee were the country blues artists best known to white jazz, blues and folk audiences worldwide. The trademark sound of Terry’s earthy blues harp and McGhee’s shuffling acoustic rhythms brought them fame as the leading exponents of Piedmont blues, a style from the US south-eastern states that often drew on ragtime forms. Combining these talents with inspired singing and song writing, the duo maintained enduring popularity, surviving the electric blues revival of the ‘60s without compromise. Two of Australia’s finest bluesmen have now collaborated to take the listener on a journey of rediscovery into the music of Sonny and Brownie, one of the pre-eminent duos in blues history.
The combination of Nick Charles’ dexterous fretwork and ex-pat American harmonica virtuoso Doc Span’s keen sense of phrasing and timing is the perfect launch pad for such a project. Their easy flowing vocals, performed singularly and in harmony together, capture the essence of Sonny and Brownie classics including ‘Walk On’, ‘I’m A Stranger’, ‘Sittin’ On Top Of The Hill’, the traditional ‘Down By The Riverside’ and Richard M. Jones’ ‘Trouble In Mind’. Andrew O’Grady adds double bass on ‘This Sportin’ Life’, Bruce Haymes tinkling the ivories on ‘You Bring Out The Boogie In Me’. Original instrumentals ‘Brownie Pickin’’ and ‘Sonny Riffin’’ exhibit Charles’ assured finger-picking and Span’s percussive reed work respectively, while a narrative ‘The Golden Inn’ relates to Terry and McGhee’s turbulent personal relationship, another Charles/Span co-write ‘Sonny And Brownie’ telling how Blind Boy Fuller originally brought the legendary pair together.
By Al Hensley
Here’s an album I hope you’ll enjoy! Doc Span and I have long discussed doing something together and John at Black Market suggested this concept –
All about Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. It just seemed to gel, considering we were both lifelong fans and devotees.
We picked many of their classic originals as well as some standards- blues, folk and gospel that they made their own.
The new, original songs on the album have stories associated with them. “At the Golden Inn” is a tune we wrote about an amazing gig Doc did with Sonny and Brownie in New Mexico. The venue was called the Golden Inn and it burnt down that night after the show! “Sonny and Brownie” is a biographical blues and the two instrumentals, “Brownie Pickin’” and “Sonny Riffin’” are based on various forms and grooves they used over time.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed paying tribute to “the” duo. We’ll be doing occasional shows and festivals and will let you know when they fall. Available on Black Market Music.