Rex Brown. The eternal sideman. The faithful retainer doing his bit with no expectation of fame or recognition, battling away behind more storied compadres through decades of soul-destroying rock n’roll hedonism. He’d never do a solo album, would he?
Guess what – he has! And, in the great scheme of things, it isn’t half bad.
It’s not particularly earth-shattering either, if we’re being honest. Brown, a long time disciple of the sweet leaf, has a style best described as ‘woozy’, sliding through the selections on this record in a haze of good intentions and slow-handed riffage that will appeal to fans of the grunge that ran rampant whilst Pantera held the flag for metal high almost single handedly throughout the early nineties.
Alice in Chains loom large, although Brown’s voice isn’t in that league. But lazy harmonies rule the roost almost everywhere, much like AIC and the overall result is one of absent-minded excellence, making this a nice slice of easy-listening for a whacked-out Sunday afternoon. A cynic like my editor might label it soporific, but that’s being a bit cruel. Train Song is spritely enough, harking back to the glory days of Southern Rock like a slightly anaemic Blackfoot, whilst the Zeppelin lite of What Goes Around Comes Around will also cause listeners to break into a trot when they haul themselves off the sofa in search of post-bud munchies. Album closer Best of Me sounds like Pink Floyd making a guest appearance on the lost Kiss grunge album, Carnival of Souls. Whoda thunk?
Best track though is the dreamy Fault Line. A lovely take on sunny mid-seventies album rock, Brown’s restrained but melodic vocal carrying the song in restrained but effective style, this is really strong songwriting that belies the man’s perennial sidekick image. It’s beautiful stuff.
Fans of Pantera and Down will of course want to hear what Rex has come up with, though almost certainly there won’t be enough concrete sledging or hedgerow bustling going on for their tastes. But that doesn’t make this any less worthwhile, and I’ll certainly be listening to it a fair bit for the next little while.
Smoke on This is out now on eOne Music