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Sugar Brown - 2 Albums (2015-2018)

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Sugar Brown - 2 Albums (2015-2018)

Sugar Brown - 2 Albums (2015-2018)
MP3 CBR 320kbps | 01:41:25 | 234 Mb | Covers
Blues | Country: Canada (Toronto, ON)

Born in 1971 and raised in Bowling Green, Ohio, Sugar Brown was born as Ken Chester Kawashima to a Japanese father and Korean mother who both immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s. Now a permanent resident of Toronto, Canada, Sugar Brown is a modern blues musician, singer and songwriter. His brand of dark, sweet, and inconsolable blues has caught the attention of the Canadian music scene, winning the 2013 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search and quickly receiving invitations to play at the Kitchener Blues Festival and the prestigious Mariposa Folk Festival in 2014.

Sugar Brown’s blues originated while studying as a college student at the University of Chicago. By day, he studied history, political economy, and philosophy; by night he learned to play the blues from Chicago’s famed West Side blues raconteur and singer, Taildragger, as well as from blues legends such as Dave Myers and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, the late drummer of Muddy Water’s band. Sugar Brown’s blues were shaped by playing the small clubs and venues along the West Side of Chicago, where the sounds and memories of past blues greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, and Magic Sam were still very much alive. Taildragger’s band, The La-Z Boys, played this style of blues every week at the 5105 Club and every weekend in the summer months at the now defunct Delta Fish Market, originally a gas station that was renovated in the 1970s into a fish market (with fish transported fresh from the Mississippi delta) with live blues music. There, in the parking lot, Sugar Brown played harmonica on a large, red-painted stage behind Taildragger and before delighted, dancing audiences of the West Side of Chicago. Since the 1970s until the late 1990s, the Delta Fish Market hosted performances by the likes of Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Taylor, Taildragger, and even Lightnin’ Hopkins. For Sugar Brown, playing at the “Fish Market” was better than heaven on earth and it changed him and his thinking forever.

(The Delta Fish Market sadly went out of business in the late 1990s. In the 1980s, however, Dutch television accurately captured on film the scene at the Delta Fish Market, including live footage of Honeyboy Edwards, Eddie Taylor, Taildragger, Detroit Jr., Johnny Littlejohn, and others, here.

Taildragger is responsible for giving Ken the stage name Sugar Brown in 1992, saying to him, “You ain’t black…..and you sure ain’t white….You’re Sugar Brown.” (Taildragger’s first two proposals for Ken’s stage name were “Japanese Boy” and “The Korea Kid”, both of which Ken vetoed outright, claiming he was in a blues band not an early United Nations delegation.) After Taildragger was imprisoned for shooting and killing fellow west side bluesman Boston Blackie in 1994, however, Sugar Brown left Chicago to pursue a Ph.D. in modern Japanese history under the supervision of intellectual historian, Professor Harry D. Harootunian. He moved for several years to Tokyo to study Japanese language and history, but couldn’t stop playing and singing the blues. He studied during the day and played blues at night as a regular performer in one of Tokyo’s best known blues bars, Bright Brown.

Since completing his Ph.D. in history from New York University in 2002, Sugar Brown has been living and working in Toronto. By day, he studies and teaches at school, now as Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

Sugar Brown - 2 Albums (2015-2018)

Sugar Brown - Poor Lazarus (2015)
MP3 CBR 320kbps | 00:53:45 | 123.85 Mb | Cover
Chicago Style | Label: Sugar Brown

The 2014 release of Sugar Brown’s debut recording, Sugar Brown’s Sad Day, stunned listeners across Canada with his ease and force in playing and singing blues. He quickly earned recognition for his classic style and raucous performances from the media and festival bookers coast-to-coast.

Sugar Brown’s second full-length album, "Poor Lazarus," has morphed beyond Chicago blues and into a more chaotic and wild space shared by the Texas blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Frankie Lee Sims, as well as the trance-like blues of northern Mississippi’s R.L. Burnside. Sugar Brown’s highly anticipated, second studio album, Poor Lazarus, reveals Sugar Brown in his many diverse grooves, shades, and styles, and is the result of three years of performing and collaborating with harmonica maestro, Bharath Rajakumar (Bharath and his Rhythm Four), drummer extraordinaire, Art Makris (JW-Jones, Kid Ramos), and jug band star, Julia Narveson (Ever-Lovin’ Jug Band). Also on the album is Toronto-based drummer and percussionist, Pat Philips, who added vibes to the mix. Like Sugar Brown’s first album, Poor Lazarus was also recorded live-off-the-floor, full-track mono, and onto tape for that classic analog sound.

Poor Lazarus was inspired by recent events in the USA, namely On August 9, 2014; Michael Brown was fatally shot and murdered by white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. One month later, Kawashima discovered the 1911 song “Poor Lazarus” in Alan and John Lomax’s Folksongs of the USA, which tells the tragic story of a (white) police officer fatally shooting a black man named Lazarus. How history repeats itself—but always with differences in the present. To give this old song contemporary meaning and relevance, Kawashima composed a driving and swinging ostinato groove, which he imagined with a huge chromatic harp line that Rajakumar would eventually play and record beyond Kawashima’s wildest expectations. The decision to record “Poor Lazarus” in the wake of Ferguson, to not let the moment slip away, was the catalyst to record this singularly unique album.

A mix of originals and boldly crafted and arranged covers, Poor Lazarus features 14 standout tracks that are at once raw, vicious and thought-provoking. From the opening notes of Frankie Lee Sims’ tune “Walking with Frankie”, to the desperate plea for one last chance with a lover on the visceral “Meet Me in the Country,” and finally to ingenious interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s, “The Mad Gardener’s Song” and Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule,” Sugar Brown’s blues is sweet, dark, inconsolable, raw, and wild. Most of all, it’s blues that will make you move and get down!

Track List:
01. Walkin’ With Frankie
02. Meet Me In The Country
03. What A Comrade Left Behind
04. Get Behind The Mule
05. Goin’ Down South
06. Poor Lazarus
07. Blue Lights Hooker
08. Tokyo Nagaremono
09. Train Sixty-Four
10. The Mad Gardener’s Song, Pt. 1
11. Burn It Down
12. The Mad Gardener’s Song, Pt. 2
13. Not Your Backdoor Man
14. Weak Brain And Narrow Mind

Sugar Brown - 2 Albums (2015-2018)

Sugar Brown - It's a Blues World (Calling All Blues) (2018)
MP3 CBR 320kbps | 00:47:38 | 110.70 Mb | Cover
Electric Blues | Label: Independent

It's a blues world, and Sugar Brown is living in it and “calling all blues” with real grace and style. The Toronto-based vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has found his full creative voice on It's A Blues World (Calling All Blues!), his third album, to be released in March 2018.

Following on from his 2014 debut Sugar Brown’s Sad Day and 2015's acclaimed Poor Lazarus, the new record mines the various strata of the blues genre, digging deep and unearthing dazzling new gems. Brown possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the form, but his songs are passionate, singular, and soulful, constantly resisting generic, mainstream formulations.

He explains his free-wheeling and idiocyncratic style this way: "Each song here is a blues world. They go from country to urban, from the '30s to '70s, but they are little worlds within the blues. "My last name, Kawashima, means river-island in Japanese. You can think of each song as an island in a river. You can flow down the river, stopping and listening to one, then moving onto the next." The voyage is a richly compelling and entertaining one.

It's A Blues World was recorded at Toronto studio Marquee Sound, with engineer Braden Sauder. Situated in an old movie theatre, the studio focuses on analog recording, Sugar Brown's preferred form. "We recorded on two tracks, to quarter inch tape," he explains. "I brought in one piece of recording gear, a 1936 Collins mike pre-amp, and plugged in my vocal microphone through that."

"By using the technologies of older recording, I want to give the listener a different sonic listening experience than what we’ve come to blindly accept in digital recording. That is part of the experience of a Sugar Brown album."
It's A Blues World has a rich, warm and intimate sound that is the perfect setting for Brown's original compositions. The mastering work of Grammy-winner Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies, Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes) is the icing on the cake of the recording.

Joining Brown in the studio were such elite players as Michelle Josef (drums), Russ Boswell (bass), Nichol Robertson (guitar), Julian Fauth (piano), and Julia Narveson (horns and fiddle). One special guest was US guitar ace Rockin' Johnny Burgin, a close comrade of Sugar Brown on the Chicago scene in the '90s. "Johnny was largely responsible for getting me to play blues guitar," Brown recalls. "In college, I was in his band, Rockin’ Johnny and The Headhunters, and he helped me get into Taildragger’s band, the La-Z Boys, where I blowed harp.”

"Having Johnny on the new record helped make my connection to the West Side of Chicago blues explicit. As a seasoned recording artist, he was also very helpful in the studio in keeping the process going." All the tunes on It's A Blues World…(Calling all Blues) are Sugar Brown originals but he is quick to cite influences upon the material on the new album. For instance, he explains that "Hard To Love" was "inspired by the acoustic playing of Floyd Council and also of George McCoy, who was the husband of Memphis Minnie. I dig that open tuning and fingerpicking style and wanted it to be part of the album."

Then there's "Lousy Dime," another highlight of an album devoid of lowlights. "That was inspired by Tom Waits. He has a song called 'Everybody's Talking At The Same Time,' and I turned it into 'everybody's scrambling for the same lousy dime,'" says Brown. There's a Waits-ian feel to the vocal here, while the fluent banjo work of Nichol Robertson adds a rootsy country element.

Brown cites "Hummingbird" as "one of the songs I'm proudest of. To me, it's a combination of John Lee Hooker and Frankie Lee Sims." The upbeat track has a great groove and features vibrant baritone sax from Julia Narveson.
There's also an irresistible slow and dirty groove to the title cut, one incorporating harp, horns and piano and a powerfully passionate vocal performance. Brown terms the song "It's A Blues World" an homage to Little Mack Simmons, and notes that the inspiration for the lyrics came from "thinking about the current degeneration of American society in the era of Trump.

The blues of Lonnie Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy were inspirations for "Tide Blues," a sparse and rustic tune that Brown explains as conveying “a sense of plaintiveness of being in love.”
"Love Me Twice" is loosely based on Bob Dylan's "It's Not Too Late," with Sugar arranging funky parts for Farfisa organ, combined with a “Chicago West Side sound on the b-part.”
Elsewhere, Sugar Brown is equally at home on old-style country blues tunes ("Brothers," "Hard To Love"), boogie ("Clock Struck Noon"), and jump blues ("Dew On The Grass”), and a little rock-n-roll with “Those things you said to me”.
"I try to have a diversity of songs with different feelings, different beats, different worlds.” he explains, and that mandate is certainly fulfilled on It's A Blues World.

Recognition of Sugar Brown as a fresh, authentic and original voice in North American blues came in 2013 with his victory in the prestigious Toronto Blues Society Talent Search. In early 2017, he reached the finals of The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, while his performances at such major Canadian music festivals as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Mariposa Folk Festival, Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, Edmonton Blues Festival, and Kitchener Blues Festival have been enthusiastically received.

His life story is certainly not an orthodox one for a blues artist. Sugar Brown was born Ken Kawashima, to a Japanese father and Korean mother who both immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s. He was raised in Bowling Green, Ohio, then moved to Chicago to pursue his studies.
He soon immersed himself in that city's rich blues culture and heritage, and his enduring passion for the form was born. Chicago is where Brown cut his teeth as a blues musician, working extensively with such local heroes as Taildragger (the man who gave Kawashima his nickname), as well as with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and Rockin' Johnny Burgin.
Since completing his Ph.D. in history from New York University in 2002, Sugar Brown has been living in Toronto, where he teaches as Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.
Upon relocating to Toronto, Brown took a break from performing music, but the siren call of the blues proved impossible to resist.
Sugar Brown is now offering us an open-hearted welcome to his blues world. It would be foolish to resist.

Track List:
01. Hummingbird
02. Love Me Twice
03. Lousy Dime
04. Sure as the Stars
05. It's a Blues World
06. Hard to Love
07. Frying Pan
08. What I Know
09. Tide Blues
10. Those Things You Said
11. Looking for 2 O'clock
12. Dew on the Grass
13. Brothers

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