Friday, May 24, 2024

Oli Brown & The Dead Collective – Epilogue

The fast moving target that is Oli Brown just can’t be pegged down. Initially seen as throwing his hand in with those other young hip blues guitarists that were shaking up the music scene some 15 years or so back – You know the kind, far better looking than the crusty old dudes whose regular gigs they were taking over, and had the audacity of attracting female audiences too.

Brown scooped up several British Blues Awards, for albums and as a singer, got invited to stand-in and play guitar for no-less than John Mayall, then (having just issued a live album recorded in Paris) called time on the blues, as such, to form rock trio RavenEye, only to do some more David Bowie shape-shifting in 2022 with Oli Brown & The Dead Collective, whose third EP in a related series is out now, alongside a new UK tour by the boys.

Following previous releases Prelude and Prologue, we now have Epilogue, but that’s not the end of the story, a “debut album” is due for later this year, courtesy of Brown, bass player Sam Wood and drummer Wayne Proctor, formerly of award-winning blues rock band King King, who’s taken to playing with a number of younger guitarists in recent years alongside working as a respected producer.

Apparently, we have the covid lockdown to thank for Oli Brown & The Dead Collective, the singer/guitarist using it to reconnect with his creative muse, and deliver what we’re informed “comes from a unique and honest place, blending both his origins alongside distinctive alternative roots sounds, and resulting in his most recent musical chapter.

For those of us who’ve skipped through the man’s career, flippantly flicking through his career, enjoying tracks heard here and there and breaking promises to check out his back catalogue,  The Dead Collective EPs serve as an excellent opportunity to begin making good on that, and while there is a template of style and influence, each have their own focus.

The four tracks featured on Epilogue, by virtue of their titles alone, would have us believing Brown is in something of a dichotomy over the direction life should take, for him, and possibly offers. It finds distinction between states of ennui and apathy, questions contentment while pondering future gambits. Not so much an epilogue, more a standing at the crossroads then.

The EP is bookended by two versions of ‘Another Day Lost’,  the former subtitled ‘(Solitude Sessions)’ and since no other tracks bear that description presumably the only recording from particular period. A guitar’s picked out ominously, with the barest essence of a country blues feel, a percussive back beat shifts us elsewhere as does the tired echoed voicings, the overall effect decidedly trip-hoppy. Whether it be that the pandemic remains too close in recent memory, and with it a feeling we’re now constantly reigned in from ambition, the song’s laidback approach – as both angel and devil whisper in your ears –  tells you to strive for more once more. “Better stop holding on, this is not your home,” Brown sings, his voice reminiscent of the late Jeff Buckley in its latter section some might say, but I’d point further afield and find more overall familiarities in former Lone Star/Uriah Heep vocalist John Sloman’s more recent solo releases.

More straight ahead, with some particularly nice pitched guitar phrases is ‘I Won’t Leave’, a tale of standing together through the bad times. Like a deep-voiced Chris Cornell, with warm R ‘n B flavourings that reassure, in the last minute or so, his guitar shrills towards a harder tempo, the rhythm section kicking in with determination; the trio plighting their trough musically where words fail. For those curious as to how The Collective this might be to Proctor’s former band, this is probably the nearest they offer to King King’s brand of heartfelt blues rock.

Exploratory guitar followed by louder bristling chords, harmonic expositions met by the counter force of explosive drums give way to a gentler broken chorded song as Brown recalls his past, with many fine lines like “Got drunk with girls and made mistakes” only to give way to a more sonically anthemic rage as he sings “My life was here and you’ve taken it all away” in ‘Home Sweet Home’, that in part takes the same source material Dom Martin’s currently doing with John Martyn’s work and taking it elsewhere; each doing very creditable jobs.

Suitably continuing the rock oeuvre just established, the version of  ‘Another Day Lost’ that concludes Epilogue, simply crushes it. You may need to go back to the earlier version just to check they’re the same song, such is the journey this little EP takes you on, and it is, but the differing dynamics at work are worth featuring both versions.

Oli Brown & The Dead Collective’s Epilogue is available here and it most decidedly recommended.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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