With “Clifton Brown: Live It…Love It…Breathe It,” local country singer/songwriter/guitarist Clifton Brown said his objective was to try to return country music to its roots.
“People want the real country music to come back,” he said. “I wasn’t going to sell my soul to the devil and do this new country music. I don’t have the rhythm for this new stuff.”
“I don’t feel it,” Brown continued. “It’s not in my blood.”
A 30-year veteran of performing, the Denham Springs native has always been surrounded by music.
“My grandfather was a professional musician,” Brown said, working out of the musicians’ union in New Orleans, playing with some of country music’s best in the process.
“He could play fiddle, mandolin, guitar, just about anything,” he said, making his grandfather what the business calls “a utility player,” his talents giving him the opportunity to perform “with some of the biggest names in Nashville.”
Brown’s grandfather had three brothers who were all musicians, so Sundays were like country music feasts.
“It was an every weekend thing for us because the brothers and all their friends would get together and play music every Sunday,” he said. “I would sit there and be in awe.”
As Brown grew older, his love of music increased to the point where he wanted to play himself, choosing guitar as his instrument. “I just fell in love with it.”
His first band was formed while he was in high school and while Brown said “it was fun,” the experience proved invaluable to his career.
“It taught me about structure and what it takes to play with other people,” he said. “To play guitar and sing by yourself is one thing, but when you’ve got five other people behind you, everybody has to be on the same page and that takes structure.”
Now backed by bassist and vocalist Greg Manchester, lead and backup singer Brenda Harrell, Danny Harrell on steel guitar and drummer Paul Goldman, Brown says he’s got what he considers “the best musicians in the area. These guys are phenomenal.”
“When we put this band together about two years ago, we knew that it was going to be right,” he said. “We just gelled and the jobs got better and more frequent.”
As the band got better and more well known, Brown got the chance to work with some pretty famous, pretty talented folks right here in Livingston Parish.
“Scott Innes (a radio personality and the voice of Scooby Doo) and I collaborated on a song, ‘How Do You Stop the Water,’” which was recorded by John Schneider of “The Dukes of Hazzard” fame, and the song has since been played on the famous Grand Old Opry. “That was a huge thing for us.”
When Brown got to Nashville to record his latest album, he once again found himself surrounded by talent.
“It was such an honor when I got to Nashville to be playing with what’s known as ‘the Nashville A Team,’ because they’re the best players in Nashville,” Brown said.
Producing the album for Brown was Bobby Terry, who was described by the Livingston Parish country star as “a phenomenal musician but a well known producer as well.”
So impressed was Brown with the musicians Terry had recruited, he felt compelled to ask how he was able to get such great players to record with an unknown like himself.
“It was simple,” Terry told him. “I sent them a copy of you singing in a YouTube video and they all said, ‘This boy sings real country music.’”
The old style country music Brown plays was attractive to the top-notch musicians as well, having “cut their teeth with real country music,” at a time when country has gone in the direction of “more of a rock style, pop-sounding country.”
The finished product contains seven original songs and three covers, “but they’re songs people have never heard because they never got played on the radio and we changed them up to fit our style,” Brown said.
The CD has been reviewed by several publications who have given it “great reviews,” Brown said, one calling it “real country music” and “George Strait quality.”
“It makes me and the rest of the band feel real good knowing that era of country music is still being preserved, still being enjoyed and we’re out there doing it,” he said.
Despite the flood – which not only destroyed most of Brown’s possessions and a third of the copies of the new CD he’d just received – “We’ve bounced back on our feet. We’re back out there doing it again.”
“I have to admit, though, the flood really set us back,” Brown said.
The band is booked to play on a cruise ship with stops in The Bahamas and Key West, the Carnival Dream, which will depart Apr. 8, 2018. For more information, call Vacation Makers Travel, (504) 433-3335.
Tommy Comeaux is the Lifestyle editor of The News. He can be reached via email at TommyComeaux@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @tommycomeaux.