Soulful acoustic artist and Twin Cities icon Chastity Brown, singer-songsmith-guitarist, has everything it takes to go national. Including an incredible new album, Back-Road Highways (C & D Music Network).
Brown’s fan base is rock solid. Promoting the previous disc, High Noon Teeth, concerts at renowned venues like the Dakota and the Cedar Cultural Center and at hotspots like First Avenue and Nomad World Pub drew throngs of the rapturous to packed houses. That’s for openers. And in this day and age of the Internet, airplay access has been revolutionized. Ultimately, Chastity Brown is an artist of singular consequence who happens to have strong commercial appeal. She ain’t hard to look at, either, which, for good or bad, holds sway.
If you’re looking for such fare as graced High Noon Teeth, that’s a fantastic recording. The ship, though, has sailed. This is new music. Prolific, profoundly imaginative, Brown has done what reasonably could be considered unthinkable. She’s improved on, so to speak, perfection. With melodic structure bordering on hypnotic. Vocals, beautifully raw-edged, leaning less on power, more on subtlety (make no mistake, Chastity Brown still can sing her way through a brick wall). Back-Road Highways is a career hallmark. The fine fun of “After You,” a rollicking blend of gospel, calypso, and country-western, stays with you long after the song’s been sung. “Solely” haunts, an eerie bluegrass-tinged ballad. “Could’ve Been a Sunday” is a trademark masterstroke. This song captures Chastity Brown’s quintessential attribute, soul-searching grit and grace.
Thank God, there is a lyric sheet. A poetic voice this powerful, you want to be able to follow along. “Solely” is bittersweet, intoning, “Had a day to get there/ So I took my sweet time and drove/ through the valleys/ Drove through the plains/ Pulled up at midnight the light was still on/ I found myself between the stained and the frame.” Then, the refrain: “It was solely, solely for me/ It was solely, solely for me.” Suffice to understate, Chastity Brown has a way with words. The sardonic blues “Could’ve Been a Sunday” qualifies a killer lyricist. “Sister Mary gonna stand up/ She gonna tell about the week she had/ How the Lord came through when she needed Him,” goes a verse. The chorus is, “And it must have been a Saturday/ But, it could have been a Sunday morn/ It doesn’t matter anyway/ That’s all I know/ That’s all I know.”
Long story short, if you have any appreciation at all of amazing music, slapping Chastity Brown’s Back-Road Highways on the stereo system will keep you off the street and out of trouble for the foreseeable future.