New digs, same old dog.
That’s the message of Harpdog Brown who is bringing The Uptown Blues Band to Vernon for his annual Prestige Inn gig May 26.
And it’s a new sound Brown, known for his classic low-down blues, is stoked to share with Vernon.
“It’s a whole different side of Harpdog Brown,” Brown said over a shaky phone line as he soaked up the sun at Lake Eyre between gigs. “I’ve been doing a lot of that uptown Chicago blues sound.”
Brown, backed by Dave Webb on the keys, Skye Lambourne on trombone, Pat Darcus on upright bass and Scott Grant on drums, fell into the uptown groove after meeting those young lads.
“These young fellas, when they were 17, they jumped in Skye’s van and drove to New Orleans to learn to play their music properly,” Brown said.
However, on their way to learn from the blues and jazz greats, Lambourne’s van broke down in the golden state.
“They busked up enough money on Venice Beach to buy a new van and continue to New Orleans,” Brown said, noting their dedication to the craft. “I met these guys five years after that.”
After making it to New Orleans, the lads learned from the best to hone their old school sound straight out of the 1930s and 1940s blues and jazz scene.
“It woke up this style of big band-blues-jazz growing inside of me,” said the three-time Maple Blues Harmonica Player of the Year.
The five-piece group makes remodelled and more sophisticated blues ditties, unlike anything people have heard before, he said.
“Now it’s a change of the guards. It’s a bit of a broader scope,” Brown said. “I’ve got a different kind of landscape I’m painting. It’s opened up another pathway for me to paint.”
Not one for downtime, Brown said he enjoys exploring that new trail.
“I never find time to be bored. To me, boredom is public enemy No. 1,” he said.
While he enjoys the unexpected, piano-driven and horn-backed sound, the dog said he will never forego his old tricks.
“I’ll always have that low-down thing,” Brown said. “I don’t want to give up what I have, just to diversify it.”
Brown and the Uptown Blues Band are in the process of capturing that sound to drop on their new album slated for this year. Because for Brown, it’s a now or never situation.
“It’s the year of the dog, so I’m planning on releasing a new album. The last year of the dog was 12 years ago and I didn’t have anything brewing. I didn’t have anything cooking with grease,” said the 56-year-old bluesman. “I can’t wait another 12 years. This is the perfect time in my life.”
Back in Vernon for his annual Prestige Inn gig, Brown said it will be a rocking night of blues.
“I’ve always loved Vernon. Every time I’ve played Vernon it’s always been stellar. Every time I come, I bring something a little different,” Brown said.
“It makes people get up and move. Come and see the unexpected. It’s going to be mind-blowing, not your average night of blues. It’s vintage, old-school.”
While he loves rocking the Okanagan, Brown only wishes he didn’t rack up 60,000 kilometres per year on his new ride.
“I guess, ultimately, I’d wish that I wouldn’t have to do all the driving,” Brown laughed. “But I think that’s all anybody can wish for.”
Because for Brown, regardless of what sound he brings with him, blues are what it’s all about.
“I just want to continue writing and performing. I’ll keep doing that until I can’t breathe.”
Harpdog Brown and the Uptown Blues Band rock the Prestige Inn Ballroom May 26 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill and East Side Liquor Company.