For Love & Money
Dog House Records
Harpdog Brown was born in Alberta, Canada and adopted into a musical family. His mother played guitar and he picked up the instrument when he was fifteen. He formed his own blues band in the early 1980’s, but didn’t release his debut recording until 1993. His 1994 follow-up “Home is Where The Harp Is” won a Muddy Award from the Cascade Blues Society and was nominated for a Juno Award. He mostly plays traditional Chicago blues and leads The Harpdog Brown Band. Harpdog’s 2014 album “What It Is” received a considerable amount of praise especially from Holger Petersen, promoter, broadcaster and owner of Stony Plain Records. Harpdog’s last album was 2016’s “Travelin’ With The Blues” also on Dog House Records. Although Harpdog was initially a stage name he has since made it his legal name.
“For Love & Money” is Harpdog’s seventh album. It was produced by Canada’s Steve Dawson at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver. Dawson took Harpdog’s Chess Records styled blues down to New Orleans where it was infused with Jazz and jump blues influences. This new band is less guitar driven and heavier on piano and horns.
The band includes Harpdog, vocals and harmonica; special guest Dawson, guitars; Dave Webb, piano and Hammond B-3; William Joseph Abbott, clarinet and alto sax; Skye Lambourne, trombone; Jerry Cook, baritone and tenor sax; Jeremy Holmes, bass; and Robert Vail Grant, drums.
Two songs were written by Harpdog. “Reefer Lovin’ Woman” about a gal he knows, and “Stiff”. The former is appropriate in that Canada just legalized marijuana for recreational use; Duke Robillard says the song “is a joy with the traditional old school instrumentation”. The later song speaks about the pains of growing old. The lead off track “No Eyes For Me” was co-written by Harpdog with Mike Ross.
Both “One Step Forward” and “A New Day Is Dawnin’” were both written by Wayne Berezan for, and about, Harpdog. “I’ll Make It Up To You” is from Brandon Isaak. The title track is about Harpdog’s love of touring and written by Dave Webb. The closer Sarah’s Lullaby” is from Lambourne.
But it’s the horn arrangements especially Abbott, on clarinet and alto sax, that give the album its Big Band sound. The production by Dawson will remind you of Louis Jordan, Louis Prima, and Louis Armstrong.
Harpdog sums it up best “this is one damn fine album, depicting where I am in my life and musical career. The title, “For Love & Money”, sums it all up well. After all, that’s what it’s all about. And in that order, we should all know that money is useless without love.”
Harpdog’s love shines throughout the recording.