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Mr. Downchild 

Behind the Sun
(Mascita)

This album, the fourth from blues singer-guitarist Mr. Downchild (Steve Brazier), finds him playing without his band, the Houserockers, or his hero, Robert Lockwood Jr. It's just him, a few guitars, and a harmonica or two. He plays it the way the bluesmen of old played it -- with no frills. Though a studio effort, the album is reminiscent of his 1996 offering, Live at the Western Maryland Blues Festival, and it's just as solid. Brazier, who moved to Cleveland from London some 15 years ago, is more than just another good blues recording artist; he's in that small group of white guys, such as John Hammond and the late Al Wilson, who were born and raised far from the source, yet still really understand the blues. Brazier's main audience -- the purists, harmonica buffs, and guitar freaks -- will love Behind the Sun.

It's not just an exercise in one style of blues, either. Considering its sparse approach, you might expect Brazier to focus on just one style, but he plays electric guitar on only 6 of the 11 songs on Behind the Sun. "Angel on My Shoulder" is John Lee Hooker boogie with a vicious harp solo, and there are echoes of Elmore James on "Shoestring Boogie" and of the Piedmont folk-blues singer Willie McTell on "Money in Your Pants." Downchild serves us a steel guitar rag with "On My Way Back Home" and pure Chicago blues with "Workin' for the Boss." "Chewing Gum Blues" is a skiffle flavored as much by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly as by Lonnie Donegan. Like his idol, Lockwood, Mr. Downchild is a transplanted Cleveland treasure.

More by Steve Byrne

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