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HERE'S WHAT THE CRITICS HAVE BEEN SAYING!

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"Rock & Blues News"
by Lee Cotten

Toni Brown, Dare To Dream (Relix)

The term "modern blues" has come to include a vast array of styles. At one end are such nontraditional traditionalists as Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater and Duke Robillard; in the middle are thousands of up-and-coming blues bar bands; and the other end is Toni Brown. Opening her second release with the title cut sung over a swirling pastiche of guitars, tambourines and congas, Brown sounds every bit the female psuedo-folkie-type that has invaded the current music scene. By cut number three, "New Speedway Boogie," Brown and her band are thumping along on a groove from the Grateful Dead. Follow this with Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," as tragic a ballad as has been written in the past 30 years, sung here in a shimmering, gossamer style that haunts the listener long after the last note fades. Brown, who is the publisher and editorial director of Relix magazine, deserves credit for trying some very difficult hat tricks. Take an 8-minute version of Gershwin's "Summertime," for instance, immediately followed by the Coasters' "I'm A Hog For You," in which she trades vocals with bass guitarist Marty Bostoff. The band also includes John Beland of the Flying Burrito Brothers and fiddle master Vassar Clements. This one's a roller coaster ride. (Cotten)

"Note For Note"
By Steve Roeser

Warren Zevon-Life'll Kill Ya (Artemis Records) and Toni Brown-Dare To Dream (Relix Records)

Which brings us to Toni Brown's Grateful Dead inspired album (her second), Dare To Dream. Brown also covers a Winwood song, but goes a lot further back in his history than Warren (Zevon), all the way back to 1969 and the Blind Faith album, the classic tune "Can't Find My Way Home" (which Eric Clapton has been known to perform in concert). Other covers include a mellow "Summertime" (no echoes of Janis), the old Coasters record, "I'm A Hog For You" and a Grateful Dead nugget, "New Speedway Boogie." Brown also does a nice version of Brent Mydland's "We Can Run," Mydland being one of the departed Dead members she dedicates this album to, along with Keith Godchaux, Pigpen and Garcia. Brown has a good ensemble of musicians backing her, including producer John Beland. Her original songs (the title song probably being best) are more personal, and there's a couple of "burned by love" numbers-"No Friend Of Mine" and "Bad News." Brown comes off well as one dedicated to her music.

"The Beat"

After years of writing about those who make music, Relix Magazine publisher, Toni Brown, has finally tried her hand at it.

Brown captures the sweet, pure country rock sound of early seventies California on her debut release Blue Morning. On this collection of ten songs, Toni surrounds herself with some great musicians, including Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano of Hot Tuna, David Nelson of New Riders of the Purple Sage and Jerry Acoustic Band fame, and a great New York duo called the Nudes.

Produced by Falzarano, the project's cover art, a skeleton sitting next to a palm tree looking over a very blue ocean at sunrise, was created by Gary Kroman.

Brown's warm and friendly vocals are both ear-appealing and kind. Her tracks are festive and pure. The psychedelic blend of country rock that permeates this album, bring to mind the music of the Flying Burrito Borthers, the Byrds, Gram Parson's Fallen Angel Band, and of course, New Riders. Blue Morning also seems inspired in many ways by the Grateful Dead classics American Beauty and Workingman's Dead.

Brown has recorded six original compositions, reworked a Burrito classic, and covered three dead favorites.

Her originals are genuine stand outs. The song-writing is honest, romantic, and versatile. The title cut is a straight up country rocker, while the delightful "Double Shot of Tequila" has a trippy new age thing goin' on. I love the bongos! "Stars" is a jazzy little groove that features some great improv by the band, and "I Remember" features Toni along with the Nudes - Stephanie Winters and Walter Parks - on some great three part vocal harmonies.

I was especially fired up by Brown's rendition of "The Wheel." The steel guitar intro by Barry Sless was totally sweet and Toni's vocals wrapped around me and took me to a warm, safe place. The up tempo version of "Morning Dew" was very fat, highlighted by a rippin' Jorma solo. "Box of Rain" brought back special memories of the last GD show.

All and all, Blue Morning is great fun with animated performances by Toni and the band, clean production and cool artwork. The liner notes point out that this CD is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Garcia and inspired by the Grateful Dead and Robert Hunter. Right on!

by... Eric Lambert

"Jam Bands"

Although Brooklyn-based Toni Brown may be better known for her publishing ventures than her musical ones, the times just might be a-changin'. Brown's prose skills and her love for improvisational music led her to join Les Kippel's Relix Magazine in 1979. A few years later, when Kippel decided to focus his energies on a record label, Brown became the magazine's publisher, and she has nurtured that enterprise ever since. Yet Brown had performed in a band as a teenager, and she now acknowledges, "After being around this music for so long, how could I not play?" So, when Robert Hunter gave her one of his guitars and encouraged her to start making music once again, she happily complied.

Brown's eventual emergence as a performer resulted from her friendship with members of the Dave Nelson Band. Over the years, Brown had used Hunter's gift to compose a number of songs, but still had no steady vehicle with which to express them. Then, in April 1995, she joined the DNB in the studio to work through a number of her tunes. She was pleased with the results, which led her to assemble a band of her own. The group currently includes guitarists Rob Wolfson of Illuminati and Gary Kroman, Tiberius bassist Marty Bostoff and drummer Mike Nicita anchor the Toni Brown Band, and Jeff Pearlman contributes on the keyboards. The sextet performs her compositions in the spirit of the music she savors, replete with improvisation. As a result, her tour docket has become full. She has been booked for a number of club shows and festival performances, including an April 1998 Japan run that reunited her on stage with the Dave Nelson Band.

Discography:

Blue Morning (1996). On Brown's debut release, she is backed by a stellar group of musicians. The Dave Nelson Band appears on many of these cuts. Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano lend support as well - Falzarano also produced the disc. Due, in part, to the nature of the players on Blue Morning, there is a country feel to many of the songs that often evokes the Flying Burrito Brothers or the New Riders of the Purple Sage (the latter is certainly attributable in part to the players on this recording). Brown's warm vocals express her evocative metaphors on tracks such as the reggae-tinged "Walk on Water" and the shuffling "Last Row of the Balcony." Other notable offerings include "Double Shot of Tequila" and the ten-minute exploration "Stars."

"Holding Together - the Best in West Coast Music"

'Blue Morning' - Toni Brown (Relix RRCD 2074, US)

A really pleasant surprise is this debut record by Relix Magazine publisher-editor Ms. Brown for which she has enrolled the not-inconsiderable services of Jorma, Mike and Harvey from Hot Tuna and the entire Dave Nelson Band. The result is a country-flavoured triumph comprising six originals, three Dead covers, and a Burritos' number.

Her version of "The Wheel" is relaxed and comfortable, with Barry Sless providing some engaging pedal steel; "Morning Dew" is given an up-tempo country treatment - less dramatic than the Dead's various readings, but with three guitarists (Jorma, Nelson and Sless) picking delightfully around each other's runs. "Box of Rain" - a tough song to cover - appears in an impressive, dreamy rendition featuring more top-flight steel from Sless and Toni's most touching vocal performance.

As a songwriter, Ms. Brown proves a more than adequate conjuror of country melodies: "Blue Morning" is a gently rocking opener with a warm feel; "Double Shot of Tequila" is a well-written, if rather melancholy vessel, featuring Sorgen on highly effective bongos; and "Last Row in the Balcony" - which boasts all three Tuna participants, albeit with Jorma in an understated role - is a slice of trad country one could imagine being covered by the likes of Dolly Parton or Patty Loveless.

But the piece de resistance is the ten and a half minute "Stars", a brilliant homage to the good ol' GD. As a song it's beautifully crafted and quite the best of Toni's half dozen - but it's the magical improvised instrumental section with Nelson, Bill Laymon and Arthur Steinhorn giving tremendous impressions of Garcia, Lesh and Kreutzmann, which weaves the magic.

Somewhere in the cosmos, a dark star is assuredly shining.

HERE'S WHAT MUSICAL FRIENDS HAVE BEEN SAYING!

This is the Toni Brown album I've been waiting for, a wonderful collection of songs, tastefully produced, that for the most part, distances her from her Dead-based audience and firmly establishes her as her own artist for new fans.

Key to her new sound is producer Paul Harlyn's arrangements, in collaboration with Brown, that gently place her folkish singing among traditional instruments.

Songwriting is certainly her great strength, and female country singers of the day would do well to mine her catalog for album tracks. Mostly songs of longing and loneliness, the one cover, Donovan's "Catch The Wind," fits the format well and is, ironically, perhaps her best vocal work to date; on a personal note, after so many years and so many versions, hers was the first that made the song matter to me. And that may be the most endearing quality of Toni Brown the performer, that her sincere, heartfelt delivery makes every song so believable.

Jon Butcher, Musicologist/Journalist/DJ


You have a great voice-very pure, rich, and clear. It sounds to me like you probably have perfect pitch too--you're not relying on vibrato to hit the notes. Your songs are very melodic and pleasing, and I've caught myself with some of the tunes running through my head! Your engineer did a great job of recording your voice. The mixing and production are first class too.

Chris Stone, Singer/Songwriter


Rabbit Hole Soul sounds great. The production is far superior to your other discs. Your voice sounds solid and full, the instrumentation is great, really clean and nicely done. Congratulations!

Bryan Miller, Singer/Songwriter, Miller's Farm


...great job. What an endeavor. I am going to listen again and again.

Veronica Piastuch, Former Manager, Eric Andersen


I can feel the very personal nature of the whole album--it brings an intimacy to the music which makes the listener feel very close to you as a person. It has a similar effect to Joni Mitchell's Blue album (which happens to be my favorite). You really put your heart into this album...so how could it be bad? It is authentic and heartfelt. Good work!

Starr Sackstein, Music Journalist


Your latest musical effort sounds really good and the production/accompaniment works nicely to complement and enhance the tunes and performances. One of the things that makes this new CD impressive is the contrast with your two previous releases. This time around, you took the time to rethink your creative approach, and there is a definite sense of maturity and growth.

Steve Ramirez, Bass Player, Bay Area, California


The CD is very, very good. I really like the sound of the acoustic piano and the mandolin. My favorite song on the album is "Sounds So Clear," FANTASTIC! What a song and what an arrangement. Other favorite songs on this CD are "Lights On" and "Blue Morning." But I like all the material. I think this is your best work!!!

Thomas Aubrunner, Musician, Vienna, Austria

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