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Rachel & The Beatnik Playboys: Press

Rachel Brown Album Hits the Mark Once Again Posted by Jay Minkin on May 28, 2014 at 5:30am

What are we here for? Is it a story from the heart or one that takes you someplace else? Words put to music? A tune’s introduction, an instrumental bridge, or is it the final chord? For those that have been following along, I would say that we are here at ND for the songwriter. It was January of 2013 when I was not only talking up Rachel Brown’s Just Look My Way, but that her album ended up on my year-end “Best Of” list sharing company with the likes of nationally known artists like Kim Richey, Holly Williams, Valerie June and Amanda Shires. That’s quite an accomplishment for a young lady who teaches music and choir at an Elyria Middle School, raises two teenagers, and still finds time to play out professionally a few nights a week as a solo artist or backed by her band the Beatnik Playboys. Something had to give, so Brown has been taking a break from performing with the long time Americana ensemble Hillbilly Idol. Brown returned to Suma Recording Studio and engineer Paul Hamann to record fifteen tracks for her forthcoming record Once Again. The songs were recorded live, including the lead vocals with very few overdubs in order to capture the emotion of the performance. The Beatnik Playboys comprise an ensemble of arguably the area’s finest group of musicians with Bill Watson (bass), Roy King (drums), and Dave Huddelston (guitar, mandolin). Chis Hanna was brought in to add a little electric organ, which sounds beautiful, especially coupled with Brown’s piano on the gospel infused “Bittersweet By and By." Thanks to a co-headlining gig at the beginning of the year, Brown enlisted Alex Bevan to sing and play guitar on the lovely duet “When it Comes to You." Brown wrote thirteen of the album tracks and recorded Watson’s jazzy “It’s Not Easy” and an edgy rocker that closes out the disc called “Gone is Gone,” written by Nathan Bell. She also once gain used Alexa Art Photography for the cover art and promotional shots for the new release. The recording project was assisted with a very modest and successful Kickstarter campaign, thanks to seventy-nine friends and supporters. The record takes you on an Americana journey that embraces many of the musical influences of Brown and members of the band. Some of the highlights include an alt-country ballad titled “My Namesake,” which is a tribute to her Aunt Rachel--a wonderful, feisty lady who still fronts a working honky-tonk band in West Virginia. “Jimmy C” could be a single on country radio--written about a guitar player that Brown worked with, who loved to yodel and drink Jack Daniels. Brown incorporated several Jimmy Rodgers song titles in the words, since it was Jimmy C’s favorite artist. “Wind in My Hair” will have you making comparisons to Jessi Colter and the original outlaws, while “Pretty Damn Damaged” transports you into a dark be-bop jazz blues club with Brown showing off her vocal range. Though all of Brown’s songs have a personal meaning behind them, she gives us an artist’s lament with a track, titled “My Best Friend is My Song,” that goes deep into the soul of possibly any songwriter you’ve ever listened to. It starts with a beautiful one minute and fifteen second introduction from the Steinway piano that Brown used for the recording. She mentions how her best friend has been there during joyous times and sad times, when she’s cried alone or when lovers have come and gone. This one song speaks volumes for many of us in what music can mean--how it has helped during troubled times, given inspiration, or just played in your head until the grooves wore out. For Brown, music has always been there for here since she was a little girl. I think for many readers, it has been there for us, too. Two CD Release shows have been scheduled for Once Again. The first will be held on June 8 at the historic G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula and the second at St. John’s Episcopal Church (originally built in 1838) located in Ohio City on June 15. Proceeds from the concert being held within the oldest consecrated building in Cuyahoga County will be dedicated to Edna House For Women, whose mission offers long-term, structured sober living and education to women seeking recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Several shows to follow can all be tracked on Brown’s web page, including unique gig venues Holden Arboretum, Cain Park, and Lakeview Cemetery. For those unable to travel, purchase a copy of Once Again, sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy. 

Alex Bevan and Rachel Brown: 2 of Cleveland's best storytelling singers unite for a songwriters night

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Jongleur.

It’s a great word, jongleur is. Beautiful and musical in its own right, a jongleur is defined as a professional storyteller and entertainer in medieval France. At least that’s the origin of the word. But it’s more than that. In most cases back then, where few could read and write, a jongleur was a living, singing history book.

 Here in Cleveland, while literacy is common, we still have need of a living, singing history book. We call that bookAlex Bevan.

The Madison resident has been chronicling life in Northeast Ohio for more than 40 years. His songs range from the Cleveland version of a party animal, “Skinny Little Boy From Cleveland, Ohio,’’ to the touching poetry of “The Grand River Lullaby.’’

His ability as a storyteller is one reason another singer-songwriter from here who’s known for her ability to warble a tale, Rachel Brown, who fronts Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys, has always wanted to do a gig with him.

 “A couple of my guys have played with him, and I’ve heard their take on him for a long time,’’ Brown said in a call from her North Ridgeville home. “He’s such a great songwriter and storyteller.’’

“I’ve known Bill Watson [Brown’s bassist] and Roy King [her drummer] for a long time,’’ Bevan said in a separate interview. “I think I ran into them back in Kent when they were playing in the Go For Broke swing band, and they kept telling me about this gal Rachel Brown.

 “At one point, I got a copy of her recording, and it never left the changer in my car for a month,’’ he said.

 “When I first released my CD, I sent him a copy,’’ Brown said. “I told him, ‘If you would listen to it, it would mean the world to me.’ He was such a sweetheart. Not only did he listen, he told me it was just wonderful, and he became a friend.’’

Those new friends will gather at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights on Thursday, Feb. 6, for an evening of shared songs and stories – a true songwriters’ circle.

“It’s not in the round. It’s more like pingpong,’’ joked Bevan. “It’ll be Rachel singing one, me singing one, and the boys [Watson, King and guitarist David Huddleston, the other member of the Beatnik Playboys] filling in as needed.’’

As with any songwriters’ circle – especially one involving a true jongleur like Bevan – the stories of the songs will be key players in the evening.

 “You can get into the whole Holy Grail thing when you’re talking about the songs,’’ Bevan said. “I remember Michael Stanley telling me, ‘It’s the song! It’s the song! It’s the song!’

 “Look at Rachel’s level of writing and what she’s able to accomplish,’’ he said. “She works within that guideline.’’

 “I think there’s definitely a realness to it,’’ said Brown on the art of songwriting. “It’s all about the songs.

 “People can be taken away by the glitz and glamour of a show,’’ she said. “They lose touch with the beauty of the words and what the song is about, what is being said and what the writer’s main view was.’’

 That’s one reason they decided to do this show in Nighttown’s close confines.

 “We wanted that intimate, organic thing,’’ Bevan said. “At Nighttown, everybody is literally within 30 feet of the stage.

 “We had discussed a lot of places because Cleveland has so many great music venues – the Barking Spider, Beachland, the Winchester,’’ he said. “We were looking for something that would be a focus on listening and a place where the audience’s expectation would be to gently see something evolve.’’

 “It’s just that stripped-down,’’ said Brown in her interview. “It forces the audience to be quiet and listen, which is great. Audiences sometimes need to relearn how to be an audience in a lot of situations.’’

 In most cases, Brown and Bevan play bars. There’s nothing wrong with playing bars, nothing at all. But people usually go to a bar to dance, to drink and to be rowdy. The band often is like a lime in a rum and cola, mainly garnish.

 Not so with this format, and in this venue, where the focus is on quiet attention.

 “My guys and I, we play well in that kind of situation,’’ Brown said. “We’re almost like classical players in that sense.

 “We’re watching each other, even when we’re breathing,’’ she said. “We’re responding off each other that closely, and when we’re playing like that, we want the audience to feel that way.

 “What I love about the songwriter forums is the chance to hear the songs, then the stories behind the songs,’’ she said.

 Bevan’s songs have told the tale of Cleveland from the ’70s to today, a journey that makes him singularly qualified to pontificate on what he sees for Cleveland in his songwriter’s crystal ball.

 “It’s the story of reaching,’’ Bevan said. “We’ve been doing it for a while, especially the last five or six years. We’re reaching to find something better, finding the way to connect the dots of our past and make it relevant to a future we can go forward to.’’

 It’s not going to be easy. Bevan put it in the context of his own life as a musician and former WMMS personality in Northeast Ohio, from then to now.

 “We were a lot more innocent, a lot less calculating,’’ he said. “Since we didn’t have the informational base of a Google society, we had to fly by the seat of our pants. We had to make liaisons, we had to find allies.

 “There was a very thick, fierce music scene here that grew out of several places,’’ he said. “We didn’t have the record companies to support and nurture that, but we certainly had the will of promoters, both independent and established like the Belkins, who would come in and build venues and create concert opportunities where the population here got to see stuff.

 “We had something magical going here,’’ Bevan said. “I don’t know if it slipped away. We went from that point of innocence to where we became self-aware, and we became so self-aware that we became self-absorbed.’’

Those are the observations that only time makes clear.

Especially to a true jongleur.

10 Bands to Watch in 2014 

At this time every year, we take a look at the local scene to see which up-and-coming acts stand poised to make some noise in the coming year. Last year was a good one for the local scene. Chimaira and Mushroomhead continued to tour and record, solidifying their respective positions as the city's biggest bands. Indie rockers Mr. Gnome, the Lighthouse and the Whaler and Hey Monea! all had solid years while rapper Machine Gun Kelly dropped a new mixtape and worked on the followup to 2012's chart-topping Lace Up. But what about the newer bands who aren't as well known? Who's about to break big? Here's a look at 10 new acts that look to make an impact in 2014.


Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys

Last year, singer-songwriter Rachel Brown assembled a big band (dubbed the Beatnik Playboys) to accompany her on her solo debut Just Look My Way. It's an appropriate pairing since she's got a big, beautiful voice and the arrangements suit it perfectly. She channels Emmylou Harris/Bonnie Raitt on the luscious, country-ish ballads "Peace in the Valley," "So This is Love" and the title track, and then ventures into Roy Orbison territory on the elegant "Just Words." Featuring organ, piano and horns, "Enjoy the Dance," is a fun roots rock anthem that nicely summarizes Brown's sound. Brown has been singing since she was 10 and that experience comes through loud and clear on this terrific CD which would hold its own going up against any big-budget production out of Nashville. She's slated to start recording her next album early this year.


Rachel Brown's music dream turned out to be a bonus for the Beatnik Playboys frontwoman's middle school students (Local Beat)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Rachel Brown, the fiery redhead with the sometimes sultry, sometimes country, sometimes bluesy, sometimes rocking and always engaging voice, had a plan.

“I graduated from high school a year early to be a professional musician and songwriter,’’ said the woman behind Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys andHillbilly Idol. “That was my dream from a very young age.’’

A REALLY young age.

“My parents [Adam and Helen Brown] were very supportive,’’ said Brown in a call from to her North Ridgeville home. “From the time I was 12 on, my parents would take me out to play and sing.

“It started out in VFW clubs and places like that,’’ said the Medina native. “They had a lot of friends who were musicians, and I would sit in and play with various groups.’’

Two years into it, things got serious.

“I started working with country bands when I was 14, playing in bars and nightclubs,’’ she said. Then came a gig at the former mammoth entertainment complex in Akron known as Jackie Lee’s Mall, which now is part of Coventry High School.

“I was playing five nights a week when I was 14 to 15 years old,’’ Brown said.

Ah, but as with all plans, there was a speed bump, and a need for a Plan B.

“I’d been playing all my life, but when I was 25, I came to the realization that I might need health insurance,’’ said Brown, who was still gigging on a regular basis then. She had a background in classical piano, so it was off to the University of Akron for a degree in music, then a job teaching, then a master’s in music.

Today, She’s Miss Brown to the kids at Eastern Middle School in Elyria, the choir and general music teacher.

“I love teaching, too,’’ said Brown. “I’m lucky to be able to do what I love.’’

Cleveland’s own Rachel Brown is a musician that has performed with acts like Hillbilly Idol. It is with acts like that that Rachel has started to get some attention by the followers of the local music scene. And with her talents as a singer and as a piano player, Rachel has also proven herself to be a solid solo artist. In fact, her last performance at The Barking Spider Tavern in University Circle that happened in early February was well-attended as many people came out to see her perform.

With Rachel Brown’s abilities as a singer and piano player being what they are, it should come as no surprise that Brown is also a talented songwriter, as well. In fact, she has just completed a new debut album with several talented musicians from the Greater Cleveland area. These musicians help form Rachel Brown’s back-up band. Together, the group and Brown create the band Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys. It is this band that has just created the release called Just Look My Way.

This new album showcases Rachel Brown’s ability as a singer, musician and songwriter. In fact, of the thirteen original tracks that make up the new release by Brown, twelve of the songs were written by Brown. And while the album does include plenty of Country music as you would expect from someone who spends part of her time performing with a band like Hillbilly Idol, it also includes some Honky Tonk influence, some Jazz influence, even some songs that would fit into the “Easy Listening” category.

Rachel Brown’s new album begins with the only song on the release not written by Brown herself. “As We Speak” is a song written bass player (and Hillbilly Idol member) Bill Watson. “As We Speak” is a track that has more of a Western Swing feel to it than a Country one thanks, in part, to fiddle player Denny Jones. With Jones, the rest of the musicians include Bill Watson on bass, Dave Huddleston on electric guitar, Roy King on drums, with Brown on piano and vocals.

The track “Peace in the Valley” is the first instance where the listener gets to experience the writing style of Rachel Brown. As is evident with this track, Brown has been heavily influenced by the style of Country music that was being created before the Rock ‘n’ Roll style became such a big part of the music that is called Country music today. “Peace in the Valley” is a track that sounds like it would have been recorded many years ago by someone like Dolly Parton. The playing style of Rachel Brown on the piano, matched with steel guitar from Al Moss, gives the track its “old-fashioned” feeling. This track is a welcomed reminder of what the music sounded like years ago and would make any fan of the Country stars of yesterday happy.

Many of today’s musical acts enjoy larger success by releasing songs with “cross-over” potential. If any song on Just Look My Way from Rachel Brown could be considered a “cross-over” potential, it would be the song “Another Lifetime Ago”. The simple ballad featuring piano, bass and drums would easily fit on any “Easy Listening” format, while having just enough fiddle from Denny Jones to still be considered “Country”. But it’s Brown’s beautiful vocals on the track that truly makes the song feel “timeless,” as her delivery on this track is reminiscent of Country singers like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Along with Brown’s emotional lyrics of days gone by, the thing that makes “Another Lifetime Ago” so strong is the piano. There seems to be as much emotion in the notes played by Brown as there is in the words she sings. And with the subtle addition of Denny Jones’ fiddle to the track, all of the musical elements come together to create perhaps the strongest track on the album.

While “Another Lifetime Ago” is probably the strongest standout track on the album, another song that could easily get played on several radio formats is the track “What If”. Another track with a strong and beautiful piano part, “What If” seems to pick up where “Another Lifetime Ago” left off. As “Another Lifetime Ago” deals with looking back, “What If” finds the singer pondering certain paths that may have made the situation better.

Much of Just Look My Way stays in a Country vein, but some tracks find Rachel Brown making other styles of music. The track “Enjoy the Dance” blends pop music with a touch of jazz to create a song that is beautiful and energetic at the same time. The feeling of the song seems to invite the listener to do just as the title of song says and “Enjoy the Dance”. Plus, the saxophone from Jeff Rice helps give the track its jazzy feel.

As a debut release, Just Look My Way by Rachel Brown is as strong as anything from artists with catalogs of releases to listen to. And with the different styles of music created by Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys, the album is nicely varied and helps to show off the talents of all involved ………especially Rachel Brown.  

If you like your music with some torch and twang, some juice and jazz, some rough and tumble, Rachel Brown is your woman.

The Medina native who works in Elyria as a middle school music teacher and lived in North Ridgeville, until her very recent relocation to Cleveland Heights (got all that?) knows the area well.

And the area knows her, too.

Fronting her band Rachel and the Beatnik Playboys, Brown has been gigging over Northeast Ohio for a long time. She's got a loyal following, and that regional jog of residency we just tossed at you? Well, that could be next week's string of live gigs for her and the band. You never know.

"Being a teacher and a musician works out well," Brown told in a recent interview. "Playing out, that schedule really balances well throughout the year, except for occasional weekday gigs... but yes, we're all over the place! It's a lot of fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Brown has been teaching music for the past 14 years and, while living in Lorain County, was shuttling her kids (17 and 14) back and forth to and from the east side for Contemporary Youth Orchestra practices, gigs and music lessons.  That's what made Brown decide to call Cleveland Heights home.

So when we asked Brown to be our latest "5 for Friday" subject, she, like fellow "54F" alum and CYO founder Liza Grossman, she unsurprisingly picked a bit from her newly-minted hometown.

"I love Tommy's," she giggled. "All the milkshakes. It's hard to be good in there... I mean, they have a lot of healthy options, which I love, but those milkshakes are outstanding. I still don't know how people only pick five when you ask them, but it's a great column with a great perspective. I'm glad you asked!"

"The mac and cheese [at Prosperity Social Club] is probably my favorite thing on the menu! It's insane, definitely a meal or two all by itself!"

So were we!

After professing a "deep" love for the West Side Market, the new Bevy in Birdtown and Music Box Supper Club spots, and running through a hearty schedule that includes a stop on "54F" alum Dee Perry's "Applause" this weekend, she tackled her "favorite five," in her own words:

Tommy's (1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-321-7757, www.tommyscoventry). I can see how people would have a difficult time doing this, but Tommy's is an easy one...I'm a big fan of the falafel and milk shakes all kinds of good stuff. One of the benefits of living so close to [Coventry] is having the access to all kinds of good food, and being able to walk to get there. I'd have their milkshakes every day if I could! I usually get plain chocolate, but you can't go wrong with any of them... love the falafel, the salads and burgers, everything there is good. I'm a food rut gal, but at a place like this? It's always good.

Vienna Distributing Company of Ohio (8110 Carnegie Ave.,Cleveland; 216-361-4500, OK, this might be a little strange for the list, but I love it. I get the most outstanding corned beef. It's fresh, hot and they cut it right in front of you. It's not technically an eat-in, but I'm telling you, amazing. You have to get it to-go. The corned beef is my favorite, but turkey-off-the-bone from there is great, too. Kind of a new discovery, for me, but so good. They do a lot of wholesale, but you can just walk in and buy—there's always a line. I bring it home and make some outstanding sandwiches, which my kids love and wolf down! (laughs)

Nighttown (12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-795-0550, www.nighttowncleveland.comI'm a big fan, love them. The food there is killer. To be honest, I'm there when there's a performance most of the time, but it's always a real treat. The Dublin Lawyer is outstanding. I've done shows and weddings there, played there with Alex Bevan recently... It works really well for our kind of music, because Nighttown is more of a listening room-style place. We definitely play country, with jazz influence, but it's not like what you hear on the radio anymore. That really works there. Anyway, the fact that the place is cool has great food on top of that [aesthetic] is awesome.  

Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave., Cleveland; 216-937-1938, I really like Prosperity a lot. Love their food. It's another place we play sometimes, but I have to say I'd love it even if we didn't. Love their burgers and fries, but they have great comfort food of all kinds. Their take on ethnic food and specials are always so good, with the specials often done in a theme for the night. The mac and cheese there is probably my favorite thing on the menu! It's insane, definitely a meal or two all by itself! (laughs) That place is just so fun. Great vibe, great people, great food, and playing there's always good. Great folks working there. Great hangout.

Sokolowski's University Inn (1201 University Rd., Cleveland; 216-771-9236, After all that, can you tell I'm a comfort food fiend? Love the stuffed cabbage and sausage there. Really outstanding. I haven't had a thing there that wasn't amazing. It's a lunchtime stop in the summer, when I'm on break from teaching... the pierogis are a given, the paprikash... me and the kids will all get different meals and then pick from each other's plates and make it a bit of a smorgasbord. I'm a big fan of the paprikash... Man, now I'm hungry. I'm sure you get that all the time. And I can't do much about it now, so, thanks a lot!


You don't have to travel to New York, Chicago, Austin, or Nashville to hear top flight entertainment.  It's right here in your backyard of Northeast Ohio.  Our home-grown singer/songwriters performing original music have been gaining a loyal following over the past several years with some lauded major national exposure.  The quality of their work has been that good.  So who is the next local favorite you need to seek out?

Rachel Brown has a voice that will make you think you're not in Cleveland anymore.  By day, the Medina native teaches music and choir at an Elyria middle school.  But the dream of performer has never left her since she first played professionally at age 14. This girl can sing the blues, sultry jazz, and traditional country & western music which can all be heard on her new CD Just Look My Way.    

The new album is just her second in the last five years. Instead of another solo piano effort, Ms. Brown surrounded herself with musicians she has either played with or admired to create a "dream project".  The stellar line-up starts with her backing band of Bill Watson (bass), Roy King (drums), and Dave Huddelston (guitar) that are the Beatnick Playboys.  A who's who of talent including Denny Jones (fiddle), Al Moss (pedal steel), Paul Kovac (mandolin/banjo), Jack Kidney (harmonica), Jeff Rice (sax), Chris Hanna (organ), and Bob Corlett (accordion) all lend a hand. Brent Kirby and Nate Jones offer some beautiful vocals harmonies, and acoustic guitar.

Brown wrote twelve of the album's thirteen tracks which were engineered by Paul Hamann at Suma Recording Studio.  Some of album's highlights include "Adam and Helen", a song dedicated to Rachel's parents. Growing up listening to old-tyme country music like George Jones and Meryl Haggard was a huge influence on Brown's musical styling.  So in that vein, this song paints a simple story about her Mom and Dad meeting, falling in love, and their persevering relationship.  Brown loves singing duets, so she couldn't pass up the opportunity to recorded "Just Look My Way" with Kirby and "When I'm With You" with Jones. Brown's rich voice fills the room with the lovely torch song "Just Words" and has your toe tapping along with "You're Not A Dream".   But what is really amazing is that every song is a winner on Rachel Brown's album.  She is Cleveland's next shining star and worthy of some national exposure. It's thatgood.                

Rachel Brown will be performing a special show on the Yamaha grand piano at Cleveland's premier jazz club Nighttown with The Beatnik Playboys and Brent Kirby on January 26th at 8:30 PM.  The official CD Release Party will take place in the intimate Beachland Tavern on Friday, February 22nd with many of the above mentioned players taking part in the festivities. To keep up with Rachel Brown's busy performance schedule around town and hear a sampling of her music, check out

Country singer Rachel Brown's new album, 'Just Look My Way' a 'dream project': Local Beat

Rachel Brown is getting used to living two lives.

In one, she's a divorced mother of two who teaches music at a middle school in the far-western exurbs. Her daughter, Sarah, 15, wants to be a lawyer because, in her words, "I'm smart enough mom. I don't have to be a music teacher." Her 12-year-old son Andrew, she thinks, might just follow in one set of his mother's footsteps.

"He's very creative," she said over coffee in Tremont on a blustery evening. "So it's very possible that he'll need the outlet of music more than just once in awhile."

And that brings us to her other life.

In that life, Brown has been playing proper, old-school, George Jones-style country music since she was a kid -- long before it became cool again.

"My parents own The Music Barn in Medina." she explained. "They had old-time roots, old-time honky tonk country jam sessions there for 35 years. While all the other kids were going to roller skating rinks, I was dragging my string bass around."

"I just grew up with it," she said. "Whether I liked it or not at the time."

"Now I think George and Merle Haggard are the coolest thing in the world, but at the time I was just . . " she said, rolling her eyes. "I remember going to gigs when I was 19-20, and there'd be more people at the hootenanny 

jam at my folks' house than there would be at the pub I was going to play at."

Those Jones and Haggard influences shine through on her new "Just Look My Way," which gets its official release party Friday, February 22 at the Beachland Tavern. Their classic, unadorned approach informs everything Brown does.

"Real country songs -- honky tonk songs -- there's this depth to them," she said. "They're written in some bar somewhere, in some corner, and the emotions are very real. To me, a lot of the new stuff is just formula writing. Maybe I'm old."

What makes the album so engaging though is it's refusal to slavishly follow the old country canon. Helping Brown and the Playboys branch out is a whos-who of the local roots scene.

"I really wanted to do this dream project where I had people that I really respected come in and make guest appearances. Brent Kirbys on there, and Nate (Jones) and the steel player Al Moss and Paul Kovac from Hillbilly Idol. So it's the Beatnik Playboys as the rhythm section, then it's just who would sound good on this song?"

And as good as it sounds, Brown has humble aspirations for the album.

"I'm very much a realist. I'm 43 years old, I'm very grounded here in town. I just hope that people like it and enjoy it, that it means something to them," she said. "I was somewhere and a couple songs in people were singing along with me. That was really cool."

CD Review: Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys 

Just Look My Way (self-released)

Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys perform with Brent Kirby and Chris Hanna at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at Nighttown and with Nate Jones and Jason Patrick Meyers at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 at the Beachland Tavern.

Medina native Rachel Brown torches, twangs and teaches her way to stellar CD

The road to making music for a living can have as many off-ramps, detours and potholes as I-77 in the middle of construction season. But not only can the best artists both guide and dance their listeners through life’s roadblocks with song, most have few reservations about getting behind the wheel in the first place.


Rachel Brown, it is safe to say, was born in the driver’s seat.

“To me it’s not really a choice – I know I’m not happy when I’m not doing it.” - Rachel Brown on making music

“I grew up around the real traditional country stuff – sitting in and playing really taught me how to just hang with musicians,” said the Medina native and Highland High School graduate whose parents owned - and still operate - a facility called "The Music Barn.” The family venture has hosted and housed a weekly jam session for local country musicians for the past 35 years.

“That made for a wealth of things they don’t teach you in lessons – listening and playing by ear,” said Brown. “I think there have only been four or five Fridays in 35 years (that the jam was cancelled) – when there was a blizzard or a hurricane or something. And when you walk in, it’s like a walk back in time.”

Brown will officially release her latest CD, Just Look My Way, at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Road in Cleveland, with Jason Patrick Myers and the Nate Jones Band opening the show. Admission is $8.

The disc is, at moments, as much a walk back in time as the Music Barn that gave birth to Brown’s music. That is not to say that songs like the title track, “Enjoy the Dance” and “I Was Alright Till Now” are overtly retro; instead it is Brown’s recording approach that is fearlessly – and wonderfully - old school.

“I’m pretty eclectic, I do a lot of different things,” said the classically-trained Brown, whose emotive voice and stellar piano work on Just Look My Way carry her through genre-busting mash ups that at times give as much of a nod to gutbucket blues as soaring gospel-tinged pop. “So this is a good representation of what I do. Live, with the band (the Beatnik Playboys) we do a lot of hardcore blues, but also a lot of down-home stuff, and jazz.”

Having been a member of a bevy of notable area bands over the years – including Hillbilly Idol, Blue Moon Express and The Damn Band – Brown called the recording sessions at Lava Room in Cleveland and Suma Recording in Painesville a “dream project” where her handpicked band of musicians past and present pretty much set up and played live.

“I didn’t want this big-production, commercial record – I really don’t like those kinds of records,” she said. “I am a true believer in less is more.”

Since the CDs commercial release, Brown has also found herself faced with a somewhat unplanned for fan base.

“I have got to be careful,” she said of separating her onstage musical life from that of a music teacher for the Elyria City Schools. “Like the album cover is supposed to be kind of a pin-up girl look. But most of (her students) think the music cool, even if they don’t like the genre; the kids will come up and say ‘we went to your website’ or ‘I downloaded your album on iTunes.’”

Meanwhile, Brown’s future goals are far from the star-struck variety.

“I want to continue making music and record another record, but I’m no spring chicken,” said Brown, who performs roughly 10 times a month and said attempts to slow down or stop over the years have led to near debilitating depression. “To me it’s not really a choice – I know I’m not happy when I’m not doing it.”

Besides, Brown has been doing it for as long as she can remember.

“I started out doing the piano bar five nights a week at a place called Jackie Lees (now the Coventry High School building in south Akron) when I was 14,” she said. “My parents would bring me, and then on Fridays I was playing in a country-rock band in Youngstown. My kids are 12 and 15 – and they are musicians - but I could never let them go to some dive bar in Youngstown to play. But it was a different time – everybody played.”

Contact Lisik at 216-986-2356 or

Follow me on Twitter @brianlisik_sun

Brian Lisik - Sun News (Feb 22, 2013)

God gave Cleveland a honky tonk angel in Rachel Brown

Cleveland's local music scene is off to a fine start for 2013.  That'll coincide well with the numerous grand openings scheduled for the city this year.  It should be a grand year for local music if Rachel Brown's new release, Just Look My Way, is any indication.

The northeast Ohio native holds a masters degree in music from the University of Akron and teaches in the Elyria school district.  By night she can usually be found behind a piano playing the kind of joyful honky tonk, country and gospel-tinged music more often found further south.   

Just Look My Way is the singer/songwriter's first attempt at recording with a full band.  We can only hope there will be more.  She's joined by an enviable group of musicians including her backing band The Beatnik Playboys. 

Special guests on the album are abundant.  Paul Kovac and Al Moss, with whom she performs in the band Hillbilly Idol, lend a hand.  The Numbers Band's Jack Kidney stopped by the session to play harmonica.  Other musicians helping out include Chris Hanna, Bob Corlett and Jeff Rice. 

The title track finds Brown in a duet with Brent Kirby, a pairing I've had the pleasure of seeing numerous times.  Nate Jones also sings on the album. 

Though surrounded with all this talent, what can be heard front and center is Rachel's sweet voice and piano playing.  Again, here we have an album by a local musician that can easily be placed along side any national act.  Give a listen for yourself here on Spotify and then share it with your friends.  That's an easy way for us Clevelanders to help spread the word of the talent we have here. 

And then you'll want to pick up a copy of the actual CD.  You'll be able to do so at Rachel's CD release party held at The Beachland Ballroom, Saturday February 22nd.  She's also doing a special night of music along with Brent Kirby at Nighttown on Saturday January 26th.  That show, with its setting made for critical listening, will be a real treat.  You can order tickets simply by emailing Nighttown. 

In the dead of winter Rachel Brown's music is finding its way onto my music system with regularity.  To me it sounds like a harbinger of spring and the start of a special year for the Cleveland music scene. 

Rachel Brown Just Look My Way


Rachel Brown debuts new CD

Y ou don’t have to travel to New York,
Chicago, Austin, or Nashville to
hear top-flight entertainment. It’s
right here in your backyard in Northeast
Ohio. Our home-grown singer/songwriters
performing original music have been
gaining a loyal
following over the past
several years, with
some lauded major
national exposure. The
quality of their work
has been that good. So
who is the next local
favorite you need to
seek out?

Rachel Brown has
a voice that will make
you think you’re not
in Cleveland anymore.
By day, the Medina native teaches music
and choir at an Elyria middle school. But
the dream of performing has never left her
since she first played professionally at age
14. This girl can sing the blues, sultry jazz,
and traditional country and western music,
which can all be heard on her new CD,
Just Look My Way.

The new album is just her second in
the last five years. Instead of another
solo piano effort, Ms. Brown surrounded
herself with musicians she has either
played with or admired to create a “dream
project.” The stellar line-up starts with
her backing band of Bill Watson (bass),
Roy King (drums), and Dave Huddelston
(guitar) that are the Beatnick Playboys. A
“Who’s Who” of talent, including Denny
Jones (fiddle), Al Moss (pedal steel), Paul
Kovac (mandolin/banjo), Jack Kidney
(harmonica), Jeff Rice (sax), Chris Hanna
(organ), and Bob Corlett (accordion), all
lend a hand. Brent Kirby and Nate Jones
offer some nice duet vocals and acoustic
guitar. Brown wrote 12 of the album’s 13
tracks, which were engineered by Paul
Hamann at Suma Recording Studio.

Rachel Brown will be performing
a special show on the Yamaha grand
piano at Cleveland’s premier jazz club,
Nighttown, with The Beatnik Playboys
and Brent Kirby on Saturday, January 26,
at 8:30 p.m. The official CD release party
will take place in the intimate Beachland
Tavern on Friday, February 22, with
many of the above-mentioned players
taking part in the festivities. To keep up
with Rachel Brown’s busy performance
schedule around town, and to hear a
sampling of her music, check out www.

To reach Jay, email

by JayMinkin


Jay Minkin - Minkin's Music (Jan 9, 2013)


Being a rookie reporter at The Post Newspapers, I have the privilege of covering the great people and happenings in my hometown of Medina. Then there’s the side of me that’s also a pretty seasoned musician after many years in Cleveland’s music scene – or at least I thought I was seasoned before Rachel Brown and The Beatnik Playboys blew my mind at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland’s Feb. 22 for their CD release of her highly-anticipated, multi-studio-recorded masterpiece “Just Look My Way.” I knew that Brown – a Medina-area native, Highland High graduate and Elyria City Schools music teacher – has a history with music that dates back to the days of her parents hosting regular jam sessions for the region’s best country musicians at Medina County’s notorious and ongoing Music Barn. Brown talked with me a bit about her experiences being exposed to professional musicians her whole life, mentioning, “I grew up with that every Friday night at my house. It’s just old time country honky-tonk.” With a masters in music education and two musician children, she has opened up for top artists in her genre, including Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Toby Keith and a host of others. Brown is also an accomplished studio player who has done a large amount of session work in her vast career. While that work can be very fulfilling for many reasons, she found that it was time to break into her own realm. “I really didn’t have anything specific in mind when I did this record,” she said. “I just wanted it to be a representation of me. I’ve never done anything that’s been just me.” Encountering a musician like her on the local level is a humbling experience for me. That often occurs when I am exposed to any of the top players in town outside of my own little world of the gritty Cleveland punk-rock club scenes that I have grown up in as a musician for about the last decade. Though, throughout the years, like most musicians, I have since aged into playing my bass with a variety of different genres on stage and in the studio, usually depending on where my mood is at (and where the payment is a little more than just gas money and a couple beers). I happened to be booked to play bass in one of the bill’s opening bands on the Rachel Brown release show with a country artist named Jason Patrick Meyers. I mentioned this to my editor Pam, who was already interested in getting a story on Brown, and before I knew it, I was officially double-booked for the night. I was excited that my two loves of journalism and music were colliding for what was going to be an amazing performance from Brown and her band. Finally meeting Rachel Brown was about as welcoming as running into any old buddy. She also played emcee for the entire event, introducing each of the opening acts and saying a few kind words about them before and after their performances. It was truly a humble action that I’ve seldom ever seen a headlining artist do. “The bands are phenomenal. It means the world to me, you know, everyone here and all these musicians that played with me on the record, gosh, you’re all here with me tonight, and it’s a wonderful feeling,” Brown said with a heavy heart in between the Jason Patrick Meyers band I had just played with and the ensuing stripped-down, funk-blues onslaught of The Nate Jones Band. “I don’t even have words for it, and that’s really saying something if I don’t have words.” As for The Beatnik Playboys, on drums was Roy King, a member of the house band at Nighttown in Cleveland; on upright bass was Bill Watson, whose career includes playing in the legendary Numbers Band; Dave Huddleston was on guitar, a long-time local player; Al Moss joined occasionally with a banjo or guitar; and Paul Kovak from the band Hillbilly Idol was on steel guitar. Her performance reflected her album accurately. From start to finish, Brown and The Beatnik Playboys delivered a set of traditional country mixed up with flares of jazz throughout the rhythm section, especially in Brown’s incredible piano playing. “It’s a little more of a country record, but I like the recordings of Norah Jones where there’s a lot of space, and I wanted to capture that less is more sort of feel,” she said. “I’m pretty eclectic as far as what I’m in the mood for. Some stuff is really pop, and some stuff is more blues oriented.” Some of the stuff could definitely make waves on commercial radio, and in many markets, it already does. Track four, “Enjoy the Dance,” is an upbeat country standard, with blues-jazz piano elements that isn’t afraid to let its great hook get stuck in your head. Stripped down ballads like “Adam and Helen,” an ode to her parents, highlights Brown’s sensitivity as she picks up the acoustic guitar and sings a powerful duet. She says she’s relieved the promotion of this record is winding down because she misses the creative part of writing and recording. “Maybe I will go a different direction with the next album,” Brown said, noting influences including artists like Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt. “Maybe I’ll go more bluesy with this one, but it will just depend what I’m in the mood for.” Getting to talk to Rachel Brown was a pleasure because I was able to talk shop with a fellow musician, as well as learn a lot about the trade from someone who has been doing it very well for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing the music of Rachel Brown on a national scale soon. Just Look My Way is a solid collection of beautifully composed traditional country and blues songs with a throwback jazz edge, and she could certainly hold her own with the popular artists in the genre today. ...

Rachel Wearsch - Life Of Love
No. 10
WSCA-LP 106.1 FM Top 30
Thanks for the great music!
WSCA-LP 1 (Nov 6, 2007)
"Your songs are magical and your delivery of them is soulful"
"Your music is beautiful, proficiently played and gorgeously sung"
Grateful Dread Radio
"Truely have one of those voices that sounds so hauntingly familiar, but has a uniqueness that sets it apart"
Nathan Hedges
"Your CD will be placed in the "new stax" general music section. This means it will be played by any and all d.j.'s instead of genre specific shows"
I love the entire cd.. I just think you have a beautiful voice.. thanks.. so much..
Peggy - WFSS 91.9
Oso glad that you found me. Your songs sound wonderful. Good Job!
Mark - Barren River Breakdown radio show, Western KY University
You have such an awesome and wonderful Voice and Talent!!!
Joyce-Marie - WRRW Virginia Beach, VA