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The Plain Dealer

Cleveland's Rachel Brown takes on life with a soaring voice, audacious musicality

Singer/songwriter/pianist/band leader Rachel Brown: "I write very literally and very simply, but people can take that to a place where they make these songs their own."
Singer/songwriter/pianist/band leader Rachel Brown: "I write very literally and very simply, but people can take that to a place where they make these songs their own." (AlexaArt)
Rachel Brown with her band, the Beatnik Playboys. Their motto: Rachel Brown with her band, the Beatnik Playboys. Their motto: "Let's just play what we wanna play."  (Buddy Mesker)

By Holly Gleason

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Rachel Brown is having a bad day: car troubles that won't resolve, a vacation that's going to have to start late, a summer that's quickly evaporating. But as she sits under the pavilion at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, a single tear rolls down her cheek as she watches Lyle Lovett & His Large Band.

It's not because the day has won, but more because of how much music means to the fiery flame-tressed vocalist/pianist/songwriter/band leader. Looking at the lanky Texan, she whispers, "It's all just so good."

That's how much music means to the woman who's just released "Look Who's Back" with her band, the Beatnik Playboys, on her own label. But it's also how Clevelanders in the know feel about Brown's country/roots/blues amalgamation.

Part audacious musicality, part vibrant sense of vocal technique, the 47-year old single mother of two (who is engaged to Plain Dealer pop music critic Chuck Yarborough) understands songs from the emotional underpinnings of a life lived on its own terms.

"With so many responsibilities, there's no time to shut down, or give in to it," she says with a laugh days later on the phone from her sunny writing room.

"I'm inspired by my situation -- or somebody else's -- and I try to find the emotion, or lesson in it. I write very literally and very simply, but people can take that to a place where they make these songs their own."

For Brown, that path starts in Medina, as the child of a gas station-owning mechanic and a mother who raised organic vegetables and cattle for the family to eat. As Southern Baptists, her parents permitted no rock 'n' roll in the house. But the weekly "jam" sessions at the family's barn sparked her.

"We'd listen to that [hard country] stuff: beer-drinking, heartbreak, then we'd go to church," Brown recalls of her father's love of George Jones, Ray Price and Merle Haggard. "Growing up Southern Baptist, I hated the thinking, but the music ...

"My grandfather was a coal miner, and we'd go visit in West Virginia for three-day revivals. I didn't believe what they believed, but the emotion behind the music really hit me."

It wasn't long before Brown was playing every Moose Lodge and Eagles Club within driving distance. Though her parents didn't drink, they'd drive their 12- and 13-year old daughter to bars so she could sit in with the bands. When she wasn't staying up late, she practiced.

"My childhood is a freaking cassette tape of me practicing and practicing," she says, still laughing. "I'd go down to the barn with my critters, set up the boom box and record. I loved those drinking, poor-me-on-the-barstool kinds of ballads -- though clearly I had no idea."

Maybe it was muscle memory, an empathy bone; but however Brown did it, she was connecting. During the country boom of the '80s and '90s, she was opening for Haggard and Patty Loveless, or headlining local juke joints.

For a wildly musical free spirit who wants to sing Wanda Jackson, Jones' "The Grand Tour" and Emmylou Harris' honky-tonk, the human jukeboxery began to wear.

"These were huge places," she remembers. "You'd have 1,500, 2,000 people who'd put on cowboy hats and denim; the energy was something, but it's about music. So, if you're someone who likes the human experience, it's banging your head against the wall."

Rachel Brown quit. She went to the house, sat it out two years. But for people like Brown, it never quits them. Slowly, the middle school music teacher began playing out as a duo with Bill Watson. They added a guitarist, then a percussion player. The thinking was simple: "Let's just play what we wanna play.

"That's always been the theme of this band, and it's why we're still together," she insists.

Renegade songwriter Nathan Bell, whose "Whiskey You Win" closes Side One of "Look Who's Back," concurs. "I've used them as my band-on-loan, and there's no limit to what they can do, but intelligent limits to what each player does do."    

Recorded at Painesville's quixotic Suma Recorders, the album boasts a sense of emergence. Balancing her truest self with myriad influences, the songs swing from the sassy rejoinder title track to the yearning "Texas Moon," from the caressing "Hey My Child" to the sensual longing coloring the Numbers Band's "No Lock No Key."

"I'd never recorded 'Hey My Child,' because it was really for my son. As a single mother with very little money whose ex-husband died when the kids were 3 and 7, it came from a really dark time. He was in middle school [when she wrote it], and he's a senior now. So I asked if I could share it."

"She's such a joyful pianist," local folk icon Alex Bevan enthuses, "but it's the heart between her left and her right hands that touches you. But even more, it's her voice, the phosphorescence of it. You feel each note she sings as your own essence."

"I don't know about all that," Brown counters when faced with the praise. "I'm not a smooth operator. I'm clumsy and awkward, and I trip over my words. There's a lot unpolished about me, but I'm a passionate person. A little obsessive, too. Wherever my head is that day, the songs are therapy, and I put it all in there.

"You know, an artist sings like they will in that moment. It's the emotions and the energy that change everything. That's what I'm trying for, at least. I try to get there."

According to the critically acclaimed Bell, trying is delivering.

"I wrote odd off-center country songs. Rachel makes them sound written in the golden age of country music. And once she's sung them, they are hers. So when I write a song that feels like truth laid bare, I send it to Rachel, because she has the truest voice I've ever heard."

Gleason is a freelance music writer in Nashville.

 

Scene Magazine

Band of the Week: Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys 

MEET THE BAND: Rachel Brown (vocals, piano), Bill Watson (bass), Dave Huddleston (guitar), Roy King (drums)

A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY: Brown's religious parents regularly listened to old-time country music and that left a lasting impression on the singer-pianist. "My folks were big into honky tonk stuff," says Brown, a Medina native. "I grew up listening to George Jones and Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn, and that was ingrained in me as a kid. The radio was always on. It was all we listened to. Those are influences, but I love blues as well. I'm a fan of early blues. My family is really musical."

BANDED TOGETHER: It took years for Brown to issue her studio debut, 2012's Just Look My Way. But she's become more prolific in the wake of that release. Her new album, Look Who's Back, represents her third album with her backing band, the Beatnik Playboys. The band came together after Brown had taken a hiatus from performing. "I got tired of playing country covers and it made me hate playing music," she says. "I made a home studio and wrote for my own enjoyment." She and Watson began working on original material together and eventually started playing coffeehouses. "The band grew out of that," Brown says. "The whole model is that we play what we want to play. If people like it, great. Surprisingly enough, it's been going well. We've been together almost 10 years now." The band plays "a mixed bag" of swing, country and blues. "If we like it, we try to make it our own," says Brown.

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Brown & Co. recorded Look Who's Back with engineer Paul Hamann at his Suma Recording Studios in Painesville. "It was a labor of love on a lot of levels," says Brown. "We love it there and like working with Paul." Brown's supple voice sounds terrific on tunes such as the twangy "Blue Diamond" and "Texas Moon," a song that features the Cleveland Orchestra violinist Emma Shook, whom Brown met through the side project Sisters in Song. Shook plays on four songs. Tunes such as the rollicking title track feature bar room piano fills and bluesy vocals. "I'm pretty consistent with what I write," says Brown. "[This album] is different from the previous album because the last one was stone-cold roots. This one is all over the place. I've enjoyed playing the piano more. I've gotten into old rockabilly. Some of the songs are silly because they're fun to play. I'm having fun being obnoxious."

 

www.nodepression.com

photo by AlexaArt Photography

Of all the local folks I have covered, one artist continues to garner recognition from an international audience.  “I notice that some random place in Europe purchased my CD online, so that just makes my day” says Rachel Brown.  A full time teacher of choir and music at an area middle school, Brown slips into her polka dress and places a flower in her hair on select nights to the delight of her adoring audience.  “I just love the dresses of the ‘50’s and 60’s and they say you can’t be sad when you’re wearing polka dots” laughs Brown. But even with a heavy schedule, the wonderful and gifted pianist continues to write songs with her band The Beatnik Playboys and they will be releasing their third album Look Who’s Back on September 1st.

Brown’s family encompasses multi-generations of musicians from her parents and aunts to her two children which both have performed in the famed Contemporary Youth Orchestra.  She grew up with church gospel in a homestead that played George, Merle, Patsy, and Loretta records.  Her previous releases Just Look My Way (2013) and Once Again (2014) were as exceptional as anything coming out of Nashville, Austin, New York, or anywhere else.  The diversity and range found on a Rachel Brown record defines her as a true artist with a pallet to paint an American Songbook.  Fittingly, a painting of the band by renowned artist / songwriter David Childers was chosen to adorn the new album art.

Single Tip-On Sleeve FRONT PANEL

Recorded live at Suma Recording Studios under the direction of engineer Paul Hamann, Brown is once again surrounded by her talented ensemble of Dave Huddelston (guitar), Bill Watson (bass), and Roy King (drums) while playing the studio’s beautiful nine-foot Steinway piano.   Special guests included the lovely Emma Shook from the Cleveland Orchestra adding some twangy violin and backing vocals from local blues artist Becky Boyd. With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, ten of the twelve new tracks on Look Who’s Back come after a lifetime of paying dues on a church piano bench, in nightclubs and opening for touring artists on concert stages. As a full-time mom and schoolteacher, Brown’s perseverance was tested traveling the singer/songwriter career path through feast or famine times. The two additional songs were written by dear friends Nathan Bell with the classic country “Whiskey, You Win” and a powerful heart bleeding ballad from Robert Kidney titled “No Lock No Key”.  It was a labor of love for Hamann who also lacquer cut the vinyl Lp being manufactured by Gotta Groove Records.

 

The band chose the title track which opens the record, a silly little sassy song channeling a Wanda Jackson rhythm that takes you to the dance floor.  A waltz shuffle ballad, “Texas Moon” was inspired by a trip to Gruene Hall that paints a picture about the Lone Star state.  “This Old Place” is filled of lots of tears and memories inspired from a family who grew up in Brown’s home during the ‘50’s and stopped by to take one last look during a family reunion.  Written as a joke about an old pair of Birkenstocks, "Worn Out Shoes" is a bluesy song that features Watson on the Tuba.  The beautiful gospel torch song “Acceptance” resonates with the life theme that when things don’t go as planned, don’t fight it. Both “Goodbye” and Count On Me Baby” are pure honky tonk rock and roll ala Jerry Lee Lewis with Rachel out front on piano and vocals.  You’ll fall in love with the outlaw country ballad “Blue Diamond”, but it’s Brown letting go of the sweetness in “Blinders” with the spotlight on both Shook and Huddelston that has an out-of-control intensity.  A sweet folk song dedicated to her son, “Hey My Child” is the most special of all with Brown on acoustic guitar and Andrew backing Mom on vocals.

Rachel Brown 7

                                           photo by Buddy Mesker

For the time being, especially since school is back in session, you’ll have to get on a bus to Northeast Ohio to see Rachel Brown & The Beatnik Playboys perform live in concert at select venues like The Bop Stop (08/25) or the Old 97 Café(10/20) along with her CD Release Show at the historic G.A.R. Hall on September 16th that has become a major stagecoach stop for nationally touring musicians.  To order the album and additional information, visit rachelandthebeatnikplayboys.com

 

www.therustbeltchronicles.com

Rachel Brown is one of the hardest working musicians in the entire city of Cleveland, OH. When she isn’t teaching music as a musical instructor to young children, she continuously performs all over town performing her blend of music to an ever-increasing fanbase. The reason for that growing following is that Rachel adds a flavor to the Cleveland music scene that no one else can or does. Her blend of Country/Jazz/Blues styles is truly unique to the area.

Not only has Rachel Brown been performing all over the Cleveland area, she has also been busy recording her original music that features that aforementioned musical blend of Jazz, Blues and Country. To help build her musical following, Rachel Brown has taken that musical blend and has previously released two albums of original music. Those albums are: 2012’s Just Look My Way and 2014’s Once Again.

Enough time has passed that Rachel Brown has just created yet another release. Brown’s 2017 album is entitled Look Who’s Back.

To help Rachel bring her music to life, she was joined by Dave Huddleston (guitars), Bill Watson (bass & tuba), Roy King (percussion), Emma Shook (violin), Becky Boyd (harmonies) and Andrew Mortier (harmony on Hey, My Child). These musicians are just as much a part of the Cleveland music scene as Rachel herself. Together with Rachel Brown, this talented group of musicians help to shape the music for each track on Look Who’s Back.

Look Who’s Back from Rachel Brown begins with the title track of her new release. “Look Who’s Back” features a musical blend that consists of equal parts Honky Tonk and Blues. The Honky Tonk influence gives the track its character while the Blues influence gives the song the pacing. “Look Who’s Back” is one track on the new release that truly helps to define just what Rachel Brown sounds like.

The music on Rachel Brown’s new album (like the last two releases) changes from one track to the next. The listener stays glued to each track of the album because no two songs in a row contain the same musical style or sound. Nowhere is that more evident than when comparing “Look Who’s Back” to the second track of the release, “Blue Diamond”.

While “Look Who’s Back” has that Honky Tonk/Blues blend, the track “Blue Diamond” brings forward Brown’s Country influences. As a matter of fact, “Blue Diamond” was written in such a matter that those influences have created a track that feels ready-made for Country music radio formats today. The song brings to mind some of the Classic Country ladies like Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn. The track would fit in perfectly with the Country hits from the sixties or seventies when Country music sounded like Country music and not Rock and Roll with a little bit of a twang.

Like much of Country/Jazz music, the track “This Old Place” is the type of song that features lyrics written in such a way that they pull on your heartstrings. “This Old Place” features a definite seventies vibe to the Soft Rock music that accompanies the storyline of a man who decides to visit a house he and his late wife used to call home. The music and the lyrics to the track create a track that would have been perfect for AM radio back in that time period of the seventies.

Rachel Brown’s new release of Look Who’s Back features nine original tracks from Brown. However, the release also finds Brown recreating two songs from other writers. The two tracks, Robert Kidney’s “No Lock, No Key” and “Whiskey, You Win” from Nathan Bell show off Rachel Brown’s ability to take someone else’s song and make it her own. With both of these tracks, Brown chose two tracks that have rather somber subject matters as both tracks deal with having to deal with heartbreak in one way or another. As Rachel sings the lyrics to each of these heartbreaking tunes, you experience the anguish being felt by both of the writers as they live through the pain.

As with her previous releases of Just Look My Way and Once Again, Rachel Brown’s 2017 album of Look Who’s Back never stays in one musical frame of mind for very long. And just like the previous albums, the ever-changing musical styles found in the songs on the album make for one enjoyable musical ride.

 

Rachel Brown will be celebrating the release of her new CD and Record Look Who’s Back at G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula, Ohio on September 16th, 2017. But before that, Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys will be performing for the o-WOW Radio Series taking place at the Music Box Supper Club this upcoming Wednesday, August 16th, 2017.

In other related news, The Music Box Supper Clubwill be celebrating its 3rd Birthday by holding a week-long celebration. Rachel Brown’s concert will be taking part during that time period. So head on out and celebrate the club’s birthday and check out Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys at the same time.

www.nodepression.com (featured article)

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. 

Friday Magazine-Cleveland Plain Dealer

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.

Scene Magazine

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.

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer

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.’’

Word Press

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.  

cleveland.com

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 Cleveland.com 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, www.viennadistributing.com). 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, www.prosperitysocialclub.com). 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, www.sokolowskis.com). 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!

No Depression

 

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 www.rachelandthebeatnikplayboys.com.

Friday Magazine-Cleveland Plain Dealer

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."

Scene Magazine

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.

Sun News

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.”

http://www.rachelandthebeatnikplayboys.com/

Contact Lisik at 216-986-2356 or blisik@sunnews.com.

Follow me on Twitter @brianlisik_sun

Radio Hannibal

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

Minkin's Music

MINKIN’S MUSIC

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.
RachelAndTheBeatnikPlayboys.com.

To reach Jay, email blues4bird@aol.com.

by JayMinkin

 

The Medina Post

 

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. ...

WSCA-LP 1

Rachel Wearsch - Life Of Love No. 10 WSCA-LP 106.1 FM Top 30 Thanks for the great music!

WSCA-LP 1

"Your songs are magical and your delivery of them is soulful"

Grateful Dread Radio

"Your music is beautiful, proficiently played and gorgeously sung"

Nathan Hedges

"Truely Amazing...you have one of those voices that sounds so hauntingly familiar, but has a uniqueness that sets it apart"

WSCA-LP 1

"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"

WFSS 91.9

I love the entire cd.. I just think you have a beautiful voice.. thanks.. so much..

Barren River Breakdown radio show, Western KY University

Oso glad that you found me. Your songs sound wonderful. Good Job!

WRRW Virginia Beach, VA

You have such an awesome and wonderful Voice and Talent!!!