Raised in northern Mississippi’s hill country, as a child Brown absorbed the region’s rich musical heritage. Largely self-taught on guitar, his guitar-playing neighbour, the under-recorded bluesman Joe Callicott, gave him encouragement and coaching. At the start of the 70s, Brown, who still had a day job in the construction industry, met R.L. Burnside and suggested they team up. Thereafter, he played with Burnside whenever possible, also working with George ‘Mojo’ Buford, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods before his partnership with Burnside filled his working life. At one point, he and Burnside played with Jon Spencer’s punk blues band. By the early 90s, Burnside and Brown were a formidable team, touring the USA, playing everything from juke joints to small festivals.
A gifted slide player, a technique he had developed early in his career but which he insists benefited from Burnside’s tutelage, Brown is a thoroughly accomplished musician. His singing voice is strong and moaning, his interpretations powerful. Many of the songs in his repertoire, some of which he learned from Callicott, come from the past and have matured over generations but which, in Brown’s arrangements, seem freshly minted. These include ‘If Down Was Up’, ‘You Don't Know My Mind’, ‘Wretched Mind’ and ‘Lonesome Katy Blues’. He also performs some Burnside’s songs, such as ‘Miss Maybelle’ and ‘Goin’ Down South’, as well as original songs of his own like ‘From Now On’ and ‘Hold Me, Baby’. For his own-name 1997 debut, Brown’s band, which included some part-time musicians, was Dale Beavers (guitar/vocals), Terrence ‘T-Money’ Bishop (bass), and J. Farrell Bonds (drums). On the 2003 follow-up Stingray he was joined by Takeeshi Imura (bass) and Cedric Burnside (drums), R.L.’s grandson, who had worked with the Burnside/Brown team since he was 15 years old.