With the release of her debut album, Sayin' What I'm Thinkin', Sarah Brown shows why she is considered one of the top R&B bass players around.
A resident of Austin, Texas, Brown has played and/or recorded with an impressive list of blues greats such as Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, James Cotton, Dr. John, Memphis Slim, and Earl King. She was also a mainstay of the formidable Antone's rhythm section, performing on numerous recordings for that label. Sarah toured with the Antone's Blues Revue as well as the Black Top Records All-Stars, has been profiled in both Bass Player and Guitar Player magazines, and was voted Best Bass Player in the Austin Chronicle Awards four years in a row and Austin's Music City News for five consecutive years. Her first single, the self-penned "Bad Boy's Pride," was named Best Single in the Austin Chronicle Awards.
Brown has made guest appearances with Bonnie Raitt at Farm Aid 2 and with Raitt and Nick Lowe at the T-Bird Rhythm Fest and has played contemporary yet rootsy arena rock on tours with Mason Ruffner and Paul Carrack. More recently, Sarah has ventured into producing, working with Lavelle White.
She's also an accomplished songwriter, with her original songs having been cut by Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli, Joe Louis Walker, and Lavelle White. In a review of the Antone's Women CD in Request , Dan Emerson wrote, "The real surprise here is the song-writing contributions of Sarah Brown. I assumed Brown's tune 'Turn The Lock On Love' had been unearthed from the archives of Memphis, Motown, or some other classic soul mecca, until I noted the writer's credit."
The daughter of a Russian literature professor at the University of Michigan, Sarah played cello in high school and was a fan of "all sorts of weird music." In 1965 she saw Buddy Guy. "I was floored. I didn't know it was blues, I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was really scary in a great way." During the same period, she also felt a strong attraction for "stone soul music - Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke - people like that." The discovery that she could hear bass led to her buying a bass in a pawnshop. In 1971 she enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but returned to Ann Arbor after a year and immersed herself in the burgeoning blues scene that was happening at that time.
Ironically, the release of Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' brings Brown's career full circle here at Blind Pig. Her first recording was done in 1973 on our very first release, a 45 rpm single by The Vipers, an Ann Arbor group which also included drummer Fran Christina, who went on to become a mainstay with the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
She played with legendary harmonica wizard Big Walter Horton for a time and then gigged around New England with various bands. She played in the Rhythm Rockers with John Nicholas, who was to make his mark with Asleep At The Wheel, and future Roomful Of Blues guitarist Ronnie Earl. She also did stints with the Memphis Rockabilly Band, singer Geoff Muldaur, and her own band, the Hipshakes.
In 1982 she toured Europe with slide guitarist J.B. Hutto, then moved to Austin to play with the LeRoi Brothers. "I hadn't really played any hard-rockin' rock & roll before, and I learned about how much fun it was." Sarah notes that she's happier playing in a variety of styles. "I think I always felt a little constricted being just a blues bassist. That's one of the reasons it was a breath of fresh air to come to Austin. One of the first things I noticed was that everyone was going to everyone else's gigs, and enjoying it."
After two decades of playing with a very long list of blues legends, local rockabilly heroes, British rockers, and various friends, Brown decided to front her own band as singer and songwriter. The Sarah Brown Trio features a rootsy blend of originals with a blues/soul/rock & roll groove, as well as off-the-beaten path covers. Sarah combines blues muscle with soul sensibility and a bandstand veteran's ability to think on her feet. As the Austin American Stateman noted, "She has grit, she has sass, and she sounds like a million bucks when you're driving real fast."
Sarah Brown's playing, singing, and songwriting talents are spotlighted on Sayin' What I'm Thinkin'. Special guests include guitarist Bill Kirchen, Fran Christina, Angela Strehli, Lou Ann Barton, and Marcia Ball. Although her discography includes over forty recordings, this is Sarah's solo debut. Brown said, "I've been asked over and over when I was going to do a record of my own. It feels good to be returning to my old home base, and also to be bringing some of my oldest friends and musical cohorts with me. I guess I was just waiting for everything to fall together the right way."