Chastity Brown ‘Back-Road Highway’ (Creative and Dreams Music Network) 3/5

If Valerie June whetted the appetite for soulful Americana with a folk bent, then talented singer-songwriter Chastity Brown may just be your next port of call. Born and raised in Tennessee, but now resident in Minnesota, Brown is a shining example of a twenty-first century American citizen and this is reflected in the diverse mix of musical influences. She veers towards folk-blues with both Cassandra Wislon and Bonnie Rait coming to mind, while historically the likes of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly have weaved their spell on her. Recorded in Nashville, and co-produced by Fred Cannon, the album takes off on the harmonica-led ‘When we get there!’ which is a hypnotic ditty with a lingering melody on the ear. Brown’s throaty delivery is ideally suited to the emotional gospel hues of ‘Lift us’ and ‘If you let me’ and ideally this writer would have liked to hear more in this vein. The song ‘After you’ was featured on a recent BBC/HBO film ‘Mary and Martha’ and is a rootsy number with a capella vocals and banjo that leads into an engaging mid-tempo number with shuffling drums. Diversity comes also in the shape of ‘Could’ve been a Sunday’ which takes a leaf out of Emmylou Harris’ ‘Wreckin’ ball’ concept. For impressive guitar work, the folk-blues ballad ‘I left home’ fits the bill admirably with some timely fingersnaps for good measure. That Chastity Brown can alternate her vocal style is indicated by the altogether softer delivery on the gentle sounding ‘Leroy’ which works well and the singer should definitely attempt more in this vein. A promising album, then, and plenty more aspects of Americana to explore including jazzier climbs.

Tim Stenhouse