Cleveland's Rachel Brown Receives a Little Help from Her Musical Friends on New Album

New release features cameos from local musicians

click to enlarge Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys. - Courtesy of Rachel Brown
Courtesy of Rachel Brown
Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys.
Local singer-songwriter Rachel Brown has regularly drawn from the vast pool of musical talent in Northeast Ohio for her previous albums. But on her latest effort, Full Moon Rendezvous, she ups the ante.

In addition to her Beatnik Playboy bandmates (Dave Huddleston, Bill Watson and Roy King), locals Austin Walkin’ Cane, Robert and Jack Kidney (the Numbers Band), Brian Davidson, Emma Shook (Cleveland Orchestra), David J. Young (keyboardist for Michael Stanley and Alex Bevan), Mark Freeman, Al Moss, Caroline King and Paul Kovac all participated in the recording.

“I’ve always had guests on the records, but the songs on this one hit differently in my mind,” says Brown in a recent phone interview. “I would think, ‘This song needs a fiddle and this one needs pedal steel and this one needs a slide guitar. It was so much fun. I got to hang and make music with people I normally don’t get to do that with.”

Two of the album's songs, “Honky Tonk Moon” and “Favorite Pastime,” date back to 2020. At that time, Brown took a trip to Bristol, VA to record with former Clevelanders Dave Polster and Clint Holley at the Earnest Tube studio. Polster and Holley also did the mastering of the album.

“Down in Bristol, they do the old time-y recording, and I wrote songs for that type of recording,” Brown says. “I wanted them to sound like country music of the 1960s. The one is very Patsy Cline-ish and the other one is plain old honky-tonk. That’s why we wanted to record them down there.”

She recorded the rest of the album at SUMA Recording in Painesville, where she has recorded in the past.

“We recorded our other three records there with [the late engineer and producer] Paul Hamann,” Brown says. “When Michael Seifert bought SUMA, I went out there to sing on a track on the last Alex Bevan record. It’s awesome. [Seifert] has done so much work out there. He’s remodeled and updated the studio and kept the historic charm of the place. They did some repairs, and after I did that track, recording there was a no-brainer.”

One album standout, “It’s Been a While,” a track Brown wrote with her husband Mark Freeman,” features the gruff vocals of Robert Kidney, the local singer and poet who’s fronted the Kent-based Kidney Brothers for the past 50 years.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a duet,” Brown says of the song. “But I thought that would be really wild if Bob would be interested. In my mind, I was thinking that I would sing a verse, and he would sing a verse - typical duet situation. But it’s Bob Kidney. He doesn’t do anything normal. He came out and had some ideas. He said, ‘I’m like the ghost.’ That’s how he sang it. He’s this inner voice. That was his whole philosophy behind it. He’s such a cool guy.”

Brown says she wasn’t planning to include a cover song on the album, but at a friend’s suggestion, she started to listen to songs she might add her own spin to. She settled upon “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. She and local slide guitar player and singer Roger Hoover harmonize well together as they trade verses on the boisterous tune.

“I’m a big fan of traditional old country,” she says. “I thought of duets with Conway [Twitty] and Loretta [Lynn] and George [Jones] and Tammy [Wynette]. I was listening to a whole bunch of songs before I settled upon ‘Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man.’”

Throughout the album, local hero Al Moss provides some terrific lap steel licks.

“Al is fabulous,” says Brown. “I’ve known him since the early ’90s. He was a guitar player back then. I played with him in Hillbilly Idol. To me, if it’s a country song, it needs pedal steel. When it comes to pedal steel in Northeast Ohio, it’s Al Moss. I was honored to have him on the album.”

Brown says that recreating the songs live is “tricky” since so many musical guests contributed to them. But she says that she and her versatile backing band have found a way to pull it off.

"I wanted a more produced album with all the instruments," she says. "The songs work well either way, thankfully. They’re different, but they still work.”

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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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