Band of the Week: Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys

MEET THE BAND: Rachel Brown (vocals, piano), Bill Watson (bass), Dave Huddleston (guitar), Roy King (drums)

A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY: Brown's religious parents regularly listened to old-time country music and that left a lasting impression on the singer-pianist. "My folks were big into honky tonk stuff," says Brown, a Medina native. "I grew up listening to George Jones and Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn, and that was ingrained in me as a kid. The radio was always on. It was all we listened to. Those are influences, but I love blues as well. I'm a fan of early blues. My family is really musical."

BANDED TOGETHER: It took years for Brown to issue her studio debut, 2012's Just Look My Way. But she's become more prolific in the wake of that release. Her new album, Look Who's Back, represents her third album with her backing band, the Beatnik Playboys. The band came together after Brown had taken a hiatus from performing. "I got tired of playing country covers and it made me hate playing music," she says. "I made a home studio and wrote for my own enjoyment." She and Watson began working on original material together and eventually started playing coffeehouses. "The band grew out of that," Brown says. "The whole model is that we play what we want to play. If people like it, great. Surprisingly enough, it's been going well. We've been together almost 10 years now." The band plays "a mixed bag" of swing, country and blues. "If we like it, we try to make it our own," says Brown.

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Brown & Co. recorded Look Who's Back with engineer Paul Hamann at his Suma Recording Studios in Painesville. "It was a labor of love on a lot of levels," says Brown. "We love it there and like working with Paul." Brown's supple voice sounds terrific on tunes such as the twangy "Blue Diamond" and "Texas Moon," a song that features the Cleveland Orchestra violinist Emma Shook, whom Brown met through the side project Sisters in Song. Shook plays on four songs. Tunes such as the rollicking title track feature bar room piano fills and bluesy vocals. "I'm pretty consistent with what I write," says Brown. "[This album] is different from the previous album because the last one was stone-cold roots. This one is all over the place. I've enjoyed playing the piano more. I've gotten into old rockabilly. Some of the songs are silly because they're fun to play. I'm having fun being obnoxious."


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Rachel Brown & the Beatnik Playboys perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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