It is a sad fact of the music business that talented people like Nappy Brown are little more than footnotes to the major blues, soul, and pop performers. The sides represented in this collection are from the early years of his career, from 1954 to 1962. Brown started his musical career as part of a couple North Carolina gospel groups, but Savoy Records signed him as a blues singer in 1954. More of a classic soul singer in essence, Brown could be held up as the link between the down and dirty blues of Muddy Waters and the smooth but powerful southern soul of Otis Redding.
Over these 36 tracks, there are surprisingly few weak songs and quite a few superb ones. Some, like the blues tune, “Down in the Alley”, are carried on the sheer undeniable force of Brown’s voice alone, a thundering instrument that encompasses the gospel shouting traditions of his youth and the world-weary tone of the blues. Others get by on the catchy bounce they put in your step, like the faux-calypso “Little By Little”.
The hits are all here, from his first single, “That Man”, and the classic “Don’t Be Angry”, to the song this collection gets its name from, “The Right Time”. Ray Charles, whose version remains the better known, if not the better rendition, copied Brown’s original recording for a hit single, “The Night Time Is the Right Time”.
Brown’s fondness for silly material like, “Piddily Patter Patter”, “Skidy Woe”, and “Goody Goody Gum Drop”, brings to mind Gary U.S. Bonds and his odes to the teenage life like, “School Is Out”, but here the songs sound like the bridge between fifties rock and sixties soul.
They don’t get much more soulful than Nappy Brown, and this collection gathers the best of his early recordings. Brown is still actively performing and recording, mostly for smaller blues labels, and hasn’t lost an ounce of that precious soul.
// Notes from the Road
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