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Ruth Brown: A Good Day for the Blues

At age 70, Ruth Brown is every bit the regal blues diva. On A Good Day for the Blues (Bullseye Blues 11661-9613-2; 60:33), her followup to last years’ W.C. Handy Award winning R+B=Ruth Brown , she is supported by a stellar cast of sideman including drummer Akira Tana, organist Bobby Forrester, saxophonists Bill Easley and Victor Goines, trumpeter Abram Wilson, New Orleans bass stalwart James Singleton and guitarist Duke Robillard, who stings on the mournful title track and swings on the sly midtempo shuffle “Be Good to Me Tonight.”

On the purely fun side are the humorous declaration “Can’t Stand a Broke Man,” the earthy Johnny Otis shuffle “Ice Water in Your Veins,” the risque, Bessie Smith-meets-Louis Jordan flavored “Cabbage Head” and the jivey novelty number “H.B.’s Funky Fable,” an Aesop’s fable re-cast in the hep light of Babs Gonzalez’s “The Black Before Christmas” or Al “Jazzbeau” Collins’ “Lil’ Red Riding Hood.” On torchy laments like “Never Let Me Go,” “A Lover Is Forever” and Paul Gayten’s “True,” her dramatic delivery, register and inflection are uncannily reminiscent of Little Jimmy Scott. She goes to church on Wardell Quezergue’s arrangement of “The Richest One,” with Davell Crawford providing appropriate piano work, and she keeps it in that sanctified vein on a moving version of R. Kelly’s pop hit “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Originally Published