Nowhere Left to Go

Woodward Avenue

Nashville/Los Angeles-based quartet Brothers Brown continue to refine their amalgamation of blues, country, jam-band, jazz and rock on the group’s stunningly wide-ranging sophomore outing.

And if things keep evolving exponentially, this side project for Paul Brown (aka “L.A.” Paul Brown) and Brother Paul Brown (who’s Nashville-based and no relation) might just overtake their day jobs.

As the backstory goes, a chance meeting at the Grammys led L.A. Paul (Grammy-winning jazz guitarist/engineer/producer) and Brother Paul (Grammy-winning keyboardist/producer) to join forces, ultimately releasing their 2016 debut album “Dusty Road.”

The group boasts three lead singers: L.A. Paul, along with rhythm section David Santos (bass) and Peter Young (drums); the latter two share lead vocals — verse and chorus, respectively — on album standout “Junior’s Back,” in which the listener might easily imagine Rick Danko taking a vocal turn.

“Junior” begins as a leisurely amble but gradually becomes a ramble, with a burst of Jerry Garcia-esque guitar leading into an extended Roger Powell-like synthesizer solo that feels right at home.

“Pete and I wrote ‘Junior’s Back’ in a few locations over the course of a few days,” Santos shared in an email to Good New Music. “We had the basic track of drums, bass and rhythm guitar laid out fairly quickly at my studio (White Rock Studios, near Nashville).

“Lyrically, I had written these verses that were speaking about those recurring inner demons that we all deal with. ‘Junior’ is a metaphor for the bad things in our minds. … For some, ‘Junior’ may be drugs, alcohol, sex addiction or ego. Sometimes you can almost seem to keep them at bay, and you can run from them for awhile. But they always seem to come back when you least expect. Pete came over the next morning and had pretty much written the chorus lyric. He said dig this, man, ‘If Junior’s gonna come around I’m gonna run like hell’; and then, speaking about the good times when we mistakenly think we’ve banished Junior for good, he said, ‘I thought it would never end.’

“You think Junior’s gone. But then here he comes on back in. It was perfect.”

Speaking to GNM via email, Brother Paul was beside himself with joy over his synth contribution to the track. “The session was sent to (L.A. Paul) to add guitar and then sent to me to add Hammond B-3, keys and a bonkers Moog solo,” he related. “I’m still wrapping my head around the wild, weird and beautiful notion that I actually got to break out a Moog synth solo on an American roots band!”

Remote collaboration is the Brothers Brown’s modus operandi. “We all have our own studios,” L.A. Paul explained in an email to GNM, “and most of the songs start in Nashville, with David and Pete in the same studio laying down rhythm tracks. Then those are sent to me and Brother Paul. We do our parts including vocals and send them back, till all the parts are recorded.

“Then it’s mixed mostly by me, but a couple of songs on this CD were mixed by Pete and one by Brother Paul. The writing for the most part is done over the internet, some by David and myself, and some with David and Pete. it’s an interesting way of putting together a CD, and it works for us. We all produce and are able to make it feel and sound like we recorded it in a room together.”

Santos, who also does most of the band’s rhythm guitar parts, offered a more detailed look at the process by relating the genesis of another song, “Brand New Day.” The slow-burning blues number has plenty of space between instruments, allowing for maximum absorption of  the musicians’ intricate and subtle playing.

“Pete and I wrote the lyrics in the studio,” Santos began. “Pete engineered the session through an analog console and used vintage outboard tube gear on the way into Pro Tools. We played our bass and drum parts together, out in the tracking room, and then used various combinations of guitar amps and pedals and mic’ing techniques to put together both an overdriven rhythm guitar part and a busier wah-wah rhythm guitar part, over the existing bass-and-drums track.

“Pete played a fairly traditionally mic’d-up ’70s Ludwig drum kit, with a few ribbon mics placed in the room. David added a bass solo through an old Ampeg B-15 bass amp. Pete and I then wrote and sang the lyrics to the song, on the same mic, and then doubled it. The session was then uploaded and sent to L.A. Paul to add his vocal harmony, and to augment and replace some of my existing guitar parts, and then it was sent to Brother Paul to add his keys.

“The four musicians are rarely, if ever, in the same room together when recording. Pete and I are together, since Pete engineers the sessions at White Rock. The tracks are typically cut from the ground up, starting on either bass and drums, or guitar and drums, and then layered up from there. Pete often adds hand drums and various percussion at the end. The tracks are then sent to the two Paul Browns for overdubs.”

Elsewhere, Bobby Rush — a longtime collaborator of Brother Paul’s — makes a guest appearance on the title song, adding his vocals to Santos’. With “High Up on the Mountain,” the boys go kind of country-gospel and nearly reach the stratosphere. “Chitlin’ Pickin’,” the first of two instrumentals, finds L.A. Paul virtually in Europe with the Grateful Dead in 1972, and Brother Paul leaving no doubt as to why he’s been The Waterboys‘ keyboard player since 2013.

“Snakehole Road” sounds like a location shoot for a Robert Rodriguez film. And the album-closing “Fifteen Minutes” is just that: a quarter-hour of slow, instrumental blues-rock that comes across like Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” meets The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” (with some well-placed stealth synthesizer).

1. Wrong Side Of Town
2. Junior’s Back
3. Runnin’ Blues
4. Nowhere Left To Go (feat. Bobby Rush)
5. My Baby
6. High Up On The Mountain
7. Chitlin’ Pickin’
8. Brand New Day
9. Whatcha Gonna Do
10. Give Me One Reason
11. Snakehole Road
12. Black And Blue
13. Fifteen Minutes

Total time: 1:11:14

External links
Paul Brown site
Brother Paul profile (CD)
iTunes Store (lossless)