Before becoming a member of the house band at the legendary Austin venue Antone’s, Mississippi-born Mel Brown (1939-2009) was a blues guitarist who gained notice with West Coast R&B icon Johnny Otis. This reissue of his 1967 solo debut reveals a solid, blues-based soloist clearly at ease with the era’s organ-driven soul-jazz, surrounded by high-caliber L.A. sidemen including organist Gerald Wiggins, drummer Paul Humphrey, jazz guitar master Herb Ellis (occasionally on 12-string), and Arthur Wright.
Soul-funk grooves drive many tunes, beginning with the title track. While Brown adds wah to his take on Oliver Nelson’s easygoing “Hobo Flats,” he wasn’t a captive of effects. He spins out straight-ahead blues lines on “Greasy Spoon” as Ellis chunks rhythm behind him. The laid-back “I’m Goin’ to Jackson” has Brown and Ellis (on 12-string) facing off, Brown and Wright rip through the furious “Slalom,” and the old-school feel of “Home James” reveals Brown’s deep debt to T-Bone Walker.
Brown recorded 11 more solo albums and accompanied other blues greats on record. In the ’70s, he joined Nashville iconoclast Tompall Glaser’s Outlaw Band.
This vinyl-only reissue reminds everyone that Chicken Fat, Brown’s launching pad, remains a masterpiece more than a half-century later.
This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.