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Barstool Messiah – Whiskey Baptismal

Queen City Sounds

By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 104, August 2022

On this latest offering from Barstool Messiah the band exemplifies a certain sound that one heard more of in Denver around 20 years ago, but more refined with perhaps melodic punk vocal choruses akin to that of The Fluid, the irreverence of Warlock Pinchers, and all filtered through a love of Detroit proto-punk and Motörhead. For half of the songs, the band brought on board legendary local blues and R&B singer Erica Brown to bring a brash soulfulness to the music that really pushes it beyond any obvious influences, even though there is that punk and hard rock attitude and energy crackling through every song. What may surprise someone listening to the music on the surface is the literary quality of the lyrics. Yes, there’s songs about drinking and hard living but there is a disarming level of sensitivity and awareness informing Nick Plumber’s words even when it sounds like he’s singing a song with the band that would be a good soundtrack for a bar brawl. At a time when a lot of hard rock is boring and predictable, Barstool Messiah is not.

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Live review: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club @ the Bluebird Theater

 

By  

I’ve lived in Denver for almost six years now, and along the Front Range for almost 20. But there are a few ways in which I have failed in the rites of Colorado residency: I’ve never toured the Denver Mint, nor have I been to the Molly Brown House. And until last night, I’d never seen Slim Cessna’s Auto Club play live…shame on me.

Following openers A. Tom Collins (who are rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, with their “Small Change”-era Tom Waits feel and lively stage act) and Drag The River (rather, the two members of Drag the River who could make it in the icy conditions), Slim Cessna’s Auto Club proved why, even after a solid decade of playing New Year’s at the Bluebird, they are still one of Denver’s most exciting live acts. On a stage decorated like an eccentric Victorian’s dusty parlor, the elder statesmen of Denver goth-Americana brought the feel of a tent revival to the Bluebird Theater.

 

Choosing to forgo a themed show (like last year’s “Popeye” New Year’s), Slim and the crew decided instead to simply dress for the occasion in vintage tuxedos. This simple choice let the music shine forth, especially with their classically evangelical delivery on songs like “Americadio” and newer choices like “A Smashing Indictment of Character.”

There is something so primordially Denver about the sound of Slim Cessna, a sound in which it doesn’t take much effort to hear echos of all great Colorado bands past and present. For this reason, it was as exciting as it was apropos when venerable Denver blues diva Erica Brown joined Slim for several songs, and when Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys was suddenly onstage accompanying the band for “This is How We Do Things In The Country.” While Slim Cessna’s sound is entirely their own, it meshes just as well with Brown’s bluesy wails as it does with Biafra’s “California Über Alles”-style bleating.

After a raucous, crowdsurfing finale with “Everyone is Guilty,”, Slim and the crew left the stage only briefly before returning for an encore. The band then finished out the night with “Thy Will Be Done,” and “He, Roger Williams,” a paean to the founder of the first Baptist church in the U.S. As the lyrics claim, Williams was a man of the cloth who nevertheless liked to rock and roll. With their intricate religious imagery and near-apostolic enthusiasm, Slim’s admiration for Mr. Williams seems particularly apt.

And on the night before new years, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club won one more Denver congregant to their fold: me.

Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.

John Moore founded The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in 2001

Read the originally published review here

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Erica Brown featured in newest Chicken Soup for the Soul!

I'm_Speaking_Now

Erica Brown has been selected for a chapter in the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul Series, entitled “I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope”. Erica’s story was selected from thousands of entries, and she is thrilled to be included, and now a member of the Chicken Soup Family! The book will be on sale June 1, 2021 at bookstores nationwide, and at the Chicken Soup website, https://www.chickensoup.com

Congrats Erica!!

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Honorable Disorder

Synopsis

Set in the dynamic landscape of present-day Denver, Honorable Disorder is a story of reconciliation, growth, and recognition. for a young black veteran.
DeShawn Foster (Theo Wilson) is a native of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood and a veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life due, in part, to the loss of his commanding officer and father figure, Sergeant Gerald Sheffield (Chet Sisk). DeShawn holds on to the life lessons the sergeant taught him, a set of mantras and affirmations known to their platoon as the “Soldier’s Creed.” Justin MacDonald (Corey Rhoads), the only other surviving platoon member, lives in a tent in Curtis Park and has given up on society, the government and their creed. His only comfort in the midst of the despair of drug addiction and homelessness is his friendship with DeShawn. DeShawn lives with his mother, Nancy Foster (Erica Brown), an active church and community member who only wants the best for her son. Her brother, Bernard (Jeff Campbell), is her complete opposite. A former featherweight boxer, he imposes his womanizing and entitled ways into their lives. Nancy finds hope when Samantha Stewart (Devon James) moves into the neighborhood. Samantha is a social worker who supports veterans in her start-up nonprofit. Upon meeting DeShawn, she becomes convinced that he will be the success story she needs to transform her career and fulfill her life’s purpose.

Press

 

“Honorable Disorder brings together a lot of what we have—and, crucially, haven’t—seen on the local news in a story that’s otherwise gone untold in Denver’s theater scene.”

Mike Tish, 5280 Magazine

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On Stage: The Fabulous Erica Brown

On Saturday, January 25 at 10pm, KUVO’s performance series “On Stage” features Denver blueswoman Erica Brown!

Her bona-fides include sharing the stage with B.B. King, Al Green, Delbert McClinton, Big Head Todd and more! In 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016, Erica won the “Best Blues Singer-Female” Award from the Colorado Blues Society’s Members’ Choice Competition!  Her band appears regularly on Westword Magazine’s “Best of” list. Her soundtrack credits, collaborations and awards are many, including placing in the 2013 International Blues Challenge with Dan’ Treanor’s Afrosippi Band. Erica was dubbed “Denver’s Queen of the Blues” by the Altitude Network in their concert showcase feature.

We held on to a performance from 2004 at KUVO that blew us away. The Erica’s band was hot and the audience caught fire, too!  The session was so good one of the tracks made it to a “Live at the Oasis” CD.

Tune in to “On Stage” for a LIVE and LOCAL blues session, rebroadcast as it was performed from KUVO’s Phyllis A. Greer Performance Studio.  That’s Saturday, January 25 at 10pm.  “On Stage,” a KUVO Jazz exclusive!

by Steve Chavis

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Blues queen Erica Brown on taking care of our veterans

Quote Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Theo Wilson Celia HerreraURBN Brands

Erica Brown and Theo Wilson in ‘Honorable Disorder.’ Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

The new Emancipation Theater tackles the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war

MEET ERICA BROWN
Erica Brown, who has been called “Colorado’s Queen of the Blues,” plays Nancy Foster, mother of a Denver military veteran struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the new play Honorable Disorder. This is the inaugural production by the new Emancipation Theater Company, and is being hosted at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre. Brown, namesake of the former Erica Brown Band, has worked with some of the finest artists in the world, including B.B. King, Al Green, Delbert McClinton, Tab Benoit, Kenny Neal and, most recently, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters

  • Dan-Treanor-Erica-Brown-Steve-Mack-Photo-01-02-2013-International-Blues-Challenge-Finals-Orpheum-Theatre-Memphis-TNHometownSikeston, Mo.
  • Home now: Denver
  • Training: Degree in Management from the University of Phoenix
  • What’s your handle? @ericabrownenter on Twitter and @ericabrownentertainment on Instagram
  • Website: ericabrownentertainment.com (photo at right by Steve Mack)
  • Twitter-sized bio: Nerdy girl who loves the blues, history, reading, African-American science fiction and romance — and her family.
  • One role you were completely miscast for: Hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been uniquely suited to every role I’ve played so far. 
  • Bucket-list role: It doesn’t exist: I’d love to play a lead role as a magical teacher-mentor — who also just happens to be a witch or a sorceress —  -n a Harry Potter-style stage play with black characters fighting the forces of evil in America. Black women are not heralded enough for their lives as wise women, crones, witches and Curandera in American theatre and film, and such a production has never been put on, as far as I know.   
  • Big Mama ThorntonWhat’s playing on your Spotify? Any old guard blues woman such as Koko TaylorBig Mama Thornton (pictured right)Memphis Minnie (or Erica Brown )
  • What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? One of my original passions in life was to be a librarian, because I so love history. I would have made a great museum curator. I love old things.
  • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: When my truly stage-frightened daughter stepped up to the musical plate and slayed an audience of 6,000 people singing at her first real gig — at the Telluride Blues Festival!
  • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Let’s engage them in difficult conversations through theatre. Our play Honorable Disorder has strong language and situations, but we should not necessarily shelter our youth from the realities of life. One of our attendees last weekend was a young teenager, and she absolutely loved and understood everything about our play.
  • What is Honorable Disorder all about? Honorable Disorder, written by pioneering local hip-hop and spoken-word artist Jeff Campbell, tells the story of DeShawn Foster, a native of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood and a veteran of  Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following the loss of his commanding officer and father figure, DeShawn struggles to hold on to his “Soldier’s Creed” back home in Denver.
  • Why does Honorable Disorder matter? Because we are tackling the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war. It also explores the difficulties the families of returning servicemen and women face, and the scarcity of support they receive. We also talk about and portray homelessness, drug addiction and poverty. These are important conversations that should be at the forefront of how we care for and about ourselves as a nation.
  • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Honorable Disorder? A sincere desire to go back into their communities and make real change happen for our vets and their families and support systems. The conversations and help must be real and ongoing. They’ve been there for us, now it’s time for us to step up and care for them.
  • What do you want to get off your chest? Let’s all just try to love each other without anger, rancor and violence, please.  We can do it!

 Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Devon James Photo by Celia HerreraURBN BrandsDenver Center Teaching Artist Devon James, left, and Erica Brown in ‘Honorable Disorder.’ Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

Honorable Disorder: Ticket information

  • Presented by Emancipation Theater Company
  • Written and directed by Jeff Campbell
  • Performances through April 29
  • At Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, 119 Park Avenue West
  • Tickets at EmancipationTheater.com
    or email emancipationtheaterco@gmail.com

Remaining performances:

  • 8 p.m., Friday, April 20
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21
  • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 22
  • 8 p.m., Friday, April 27
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28
  • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 29

Cast list:

  • Theo Wilson, Erica Brown, Chet W. Sisk, Corey Rhoads and Devon James

Erica Hosts National Women In Blues Livestream Interviews in Denver on te%

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ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC: WILLIE DIXON TRIBUTE


Every so often Todd Parks Mohr, frontman for Big Head Todd and the Monsters, breaks free from his music to celebrate legends.

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Todd Parks Mohr (right) and Ronnie Baker Brooks

I had the good fortune to see him and his band team up with some remarkable musicians, Mud Morganfield (Muddy Waters son), Billy Branch, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Erica Brown (who joined the group as their backup singer and power house), to sing songs from Willie Dixon.

One of the remarkable things about this concert was its venue, a small renovated theater, something out of the Vaudevillian days, in downtown Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing is a small Mississippi river town that I’m sure no one outside of Minnesota would have hear of, but regardless, it was perfect for an intimate night with Todd and his friends.

As always, I’m very easily “blown away” by live music, not just any live music, but music of soul shaking proportions, and this was surely a night to remember.

Erica Brown only came out twice, which was a shame, because she had some “pipes” in her, holy god…..it was living the Maxell tap commercial, fantastic.

The rest of the boys shared the spotlight singing their renditions of Willie’s master pieces, but what was surprising to me, though maybe not to you, was “You need Love” which Mud sang….Led Zeppelin has also covered it pretty famously.

One of the highlights was the up close and personal moment each singer spoke about, their introduction to the blues, meeting Willie, and how the Blues changed their lives. Mud spoke of his father Muddy and the day Prince showed up in a long Limousine, or Todd’s first meeting with Ronnie Baker Brown 20 yrs ago.

Billy Branch, Erica Brown, and Mud Morganfield

Billy Branch, Erica Brown, and Mud Morganfield

Paul and I have followed Big Head Todd since their debut album back in the 80’s. They remain one of our favorite bands to see live, showing us music is timeless, and uniting.