Listen to Nappy Brown's "Right Time"Long Time Coming
is the heralded comeback album from North Carolina-born Nappy Brown
, a veteran roots vocalist whose powerful, gospel-infused 1950s sides for the Savoy label made him a pioneering figure in the R&B realm and helped plant the seeds of the soul music that followed.
Born in 1929, Napoleon Brown Culp started singing in the church choir when he was just nine years old and belonged to a number of gospel groups during his teen years. He got his big break in 1954, waxing a pair of gospel offerings with an outfit called the Heavenly Lights before label boss Herman Lubinsky invited him to jump to the “secular” side, which kicked off a run of R&B successes.
Brown is now 78 years old and roughly five decades removed from the hits of his heyday like “That Man,” “Don’t Be Angry,” and “Piddily Patter Patter,” but his star is rising once again. And Long Time Coming makes clear that the passage of time—not to mention significant periods of stage and studio inactivity—has done surprisingly little to diminish the intensity and passion of his vocal delivery, which melds the worlds of blues, gospel, and R&B.
Brown soars through this 12-track effort, continually pushed by a crack backing band constructed by producer Scott Cable that includes Robert Cray organist Jim Pugh, bassist Mookie Brill, drummer Big Joe Maher, pianist Clark Stern, and guitarist Sean Costello. Costello, who recorded the album with his 1953 Les Paul Goldtop, swings on the album-opening “Keep On Pleasin’ You” and finds room to cut loose on “That Man.” Costello threatens to implode on “Bye Bye Baby,” and he also delivers bluesy, gutbucket lines on the Brown co-penned “Right Time.” (Brown’s ’50s original was covered by Ray Charles and turned into a mega-hit.) Precious few American roots music pioneers are still traveling today’s highways. But Nappy Brown is one, and he sounds like he’s got plenty left in the tank.