Local Wire

Nappy Brown

In the 1950s, along with Ray Charles, singer Napoleon "Nappy" Brown was one of the transitional performers between blues and rhythm & blues (the latter in the '60s transmuted to "soul music"). Proceeding from a blues foundation, Brown worked gospel, pop, and jump-blues (i.e., Louis Jordan) into the mix. That, and his distinctive vocal style — often rolling his "L's" — Brown laid groundwork for Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, and eventually, Van Morrison (post-Them). Long Time Coming continues along Brown's comeback trail (begun in the '80s). Wisely, he doesn't try to replicate his '50s zenith. Time alternates between straight-up urban blues (the shuffle "Who," the chugging Little Walter-like "Aw Shucks Baby") and emotive, urbane R&B à la Brother Ray ("Give Me Your Love," Ray's "Right Time"). What separates Sir Nappy from most contemporary blues singers is the euphoric swagger he brings to his vocals, instilling the proceedings with savoir-faire. Mostly recorded in Kernersville, South Carolina, his backing band plays just right — not too raw, not too slick, never overplaying. While no classic, Long Time Coming is a winner.
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Mark Keresman