Shirley Brown (21st Century)

Daddy B. Nice's #7 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Shirley Brown (21st Century) by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"I've Got To Sleep With One Eye Open"

Shirley Brown (21st Century)

Composed by Frederick Knight


Note: Shirley Brown also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's). The "21st Century" after Shirley Brown's name in the headline is to distinguish her artist-guide entries on this page from her artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart.


Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Woman To Woman" Live Onstage on YouTube.

July 12, 2013:

Shirley Brown is--and if not, should be--the single greatest ambassador for Southern Soul music living today. She has the jaw-dropping technical skills of the best urban R&B singers, including the late, great Whitney Houston. Her dazzling vocal dexterity satisfies the mainstream's fixation on technique while her lacquered production standards underline her underlying sophistication.

A lot of non-Southern soul fans can relate to that sophistication, and through Shirley's music the newcomers have a bridge--a lifeline, if you will--to the Southern Soul sound. Why? Because in this, the "mature" phase of her career, Shirley Brown sings and/or covers Southern Soul music's finest songs--and Southern Soul is, if nothing else, a genre replete with good songs.

So, for example, Shirley Brown's searing "I Don’t Wanna Leave," as thoroughly steeped in the Southern Soul milieu as you can get, nevertheless relates to the mainstream ear in a way, for example, Karen Wolfe's "Man Enough" can't. The Southern Soul sound is intimidating ("outmoded" according to some) to the uninitiated ear, but repeated listening brings vast rewards.

Shirley Brown, in other words, provides a gateway-artist function in today's deep-south musical world, leading the way to the rougher, less-polished, more authentically-country southern soul of the likes of Karen Wolfe and Ms. Jody.

Brown's solid interpretation of the brilliant but strident Luther Lackey's "Call Your Outside Woman" (under the title "You Ain't Gonna Get No More Of My Love"), to cite another example, exemplifies the spokeswoman aspect of her art.

Whereas in his songs singer/songwriter Lackey downplays his strengths--his terrific sense of melody, his emotional depth--in deference to a kind of facile humor, Shirley Brown negotiates the same material without any emotional filters, elaborating the song's true depth with a seasoned vocalist's artistry.

Along with the similarities to today's celebrities and the more currently-fashionable "urban" African-American songstresses, Shirley Brown also possesses the requisite "diva-itis." She is a proud woman, having achieved success at the highest level ("Woman To Woman's" run at national number one for starters), and her demands and vicissitudes are legend among chitlin' circuit businessmen. If there is anything approaching royalty in Southern Soul, Shirley Brown is it and acts like it.

None of these diva trappings, however, detract from Shirley Brown's honesty, integrity or authenticity as a true Southern Soul star, as deeply-imbedded in the collective musical consciousness of Southern Soul as Marvin Sease or Tyrone Davis.

Here's a note Daddy B. Nice wrote about Shirley Brown in 2010 on Daddy B. Nice's Corner:


*******************

April 1, 2010: Daddy B. Nice's Update

Now that the dust has settled on Shirley Brown's 2009 album, Unleashed (Malaco), it's obvious that the disc is one of the finest works of art to come out of the Southern Soul music scene in recent years.

Rather than fall out of touch with the new music, as more than a few of the elder statestmen and women of the genre have done, Shirley Brown summarizes everything about Southern Soul that anyone--longtime fan or recent convert--could desire into a flawless stream of outstanding singles, anyone of which could or already has charted on the chitlin' circuit.

Shirley Brown is an artist at the peak of her powers with arguably only one active rival, the renowned Denise LaSalle, with whom Shirley maintains a creative and positive rivalry that has never devolved into the rotten hijinks of lesser artists.

For anyone wishing to know what Southern Soul music is all about, it would be hard to find a better overall primer to the genre than Shirley's eminently listenable Unleashed album. Coupled with her 21st century breakthough album, Woman Enough, the two CD's now stand like monumental bookends at the gates to Southern Soul heaven.

--Daddy B. Nice


***************

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Watch What You Tell Your Friends" on YouTube.

Shirley Brown on iTunes.

--Daddy B. Nice


About Shirley Brown (21st Century)

Shirley Brown was born January 6, 1947 in West Memphis, Arkansas. Her family relocated to St. Louis when she was small, and by the age of ten she was already known throughout the religious community for her gospel solos. She began singing R&B as a teen, performing locally before securing a recording contract with Stax Records. Her hit, "Woman To Woman," released in 1974, went to #1 (2 weeks) and sold a million copies.

After the demise of Stax, Brown moved to Arista Records in 1977. However, the following decade was a fallow one for Brown, as it was for most soul artists. But in 1989 Brown moved to Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records, where she recorded noteworthy if no longer national albums on a regular basis, albeit frequently shunning the Southern Soul emphasis of Malaco in favor of more middle-of-the-road "urban contemporary" music.

Starting with 1993's Joy And Pain, however, Brown concentrated on releasing creditable collections of bluesy numbers and diva ballads, often with musical "helpings" from the past such as Ann Peebles' "You're Gonna Make Me Cry."

Malaco lavished Brown with material from the cream of Southern Soul songwriters: Frederick Knight, Charles Richard Cason, Homer Banks and Lester Snell. Shirley had come close to scoring Southern Soul hits with 93's "You're Gonna Make Me Cry," 97's "Don't Go Looking For My Man," and 2000's "If You Keep Using My Love." But while many of the same songwriters had contributed to those prior efforts, the songs were frequently buried in albums with a lot of distracting, all-over-the-musical-map material. And, in the end, none of her previous Malaco releases prepared Brown's audience for the radio impact of her 2004 CD, Woman Enough.

Woman Enough engaged deejays of the Deep South with its straight-ahead soul material. "Poon Tang Man," the first radio single from the album, garnered the most airplay and listener interest of any "Downtown" Shirley Brown track in years, and "Sleep With One Eye Open" capitalized upon that success, introducing the rediscovered blues credentials of Brown to a new generation of listeners.

Requests for "Sleep With One Eye Open" showered upon chitlin' circuit deejays. Between "Poon Tang Man," a sweet, Lennon/McCartney-like melody masquerading as a funky bar blues (also from 2004's Woman Enough), and "Sleep With One Eye Open," Shirley Brown was "represented" on a daily basis across the Stations of the Deep South throughout all of 2004 and even into 2005, when yet another cut from the LP, "Too Much Candy," also caught the public's fancy.

Five long years later, in 2009, even as Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records and its subsidiary, Waldoxy (captained by the Couches, Tommy and Tommy Jr.) contemplated closing down their Southern Soul division to concentrate exclusively on gospel recordings and their substantial back catalog, Shirley Brown released the single "Upside Down," written by Frederick Knight. The album Unleashed soon followed.

The album showcased tunes by the best new songwriting talents of Southern Soul's younger generation--Luther Lackey, Vick Allen. Raymond Moore--along side songs by the legendary older composers of the genre: Frederick Knight, Charles Richard Cason and Harrison Calloway.

The CD was a smash across the chitlin' circuit, although perhaps not lucrative enough in terms of record sales to justify continuing on. (Malaco soon terminated its Southern Soul signings, and Brown has not published a CD since.)

However, a number of songs from the acclaimed CD became hit singles in the Deep South: the two Charles Richard Cason numbers--"I Wish You Didn't Love Me So Good" and "Clean House"--the Frederick Knight opening track "Upside Down," and two songs by the younger-generation's Luther Lackey--"You Ain't Gone Get No More Of My Love" and "Watch What You Tell Your Friends."

Shirley Brown Discography:

1974: Woman to Woman (Stax)

1977: Shirley Brown (Arista)

1979: For the Real Feeling (Stax)

1985: Intimate Storm (4th & Broadway)

1989: Fire & Ice (Malaco)

1990: Timeless (Malaco)

1993: Joy & Pain (Malaco)

1995: Diva of Soul (Malaco)

1997: The Soul of a Woman (Malaco)

1998: Three Way Love Affair (601)

2000: Holding My Own (Malaco)

2001: Woman (ZYX)

2004: Woman Enough (Malaco)

2009: Unleashed (Malaco)


Tidbits

1.

July 4, 2013: Shirley Brown on YouTube:


Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Woman To Woman" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Woman To Woman" Live Onstage on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "I’ve Got To Sleep With One Eye Open" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Why You Want To Love Me Like That" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Don’t Go Looking For My Man" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Stuck On Stupid" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "This Used To Be Your House" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "I Caught You With Your Pants Down" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Upside Down" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Watch What You Tell Your Friends" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "I Don’t Wanna Leave" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "Too Much Candy" on YouTube.

Listen to Shirley Brown singing "I Had A Talk With My Man" on YouTube.



Honorary "B" Side

"Watch What You Tell Your Friends"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I've Got To Sleep With One Eye Open by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I've Got To Sleep With One Eye Open


CD: Woman Enough
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Woman Enough


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Watch What You Tell Your Friends by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Watch What You Tell Your Friends


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Don't Wanna Leave by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I Don't Wanna Leave


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy It Ain't No Fun (Being In Love With Yourself) by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
It Ain't No Fun (Being In Love With Yourself)


CD: Woman To Woman
Label: Stax

Sample or Buy
Woman To Woman


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Poon Tang Man by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Poon Tang Man


CD: Woman Enough
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Woman Enough


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Upside Down by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Upside Down


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Why You Wanna Love Me Like That by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Why You Wanna Love Me Like That


CD: The Soul Of A Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
The Soul Of A Woman


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Woman To Woman by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Woman To Woman


CD: Woman To Woman
Label: Stax

Sample or Buy
Woman To Woman


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy You Ain't Gonna Get No More Of My Love    by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
You Ain't Gonna Get No More Of My Love


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Clean House by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Clean House


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Don't Go Looking For My Man by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Don't Go Looking For My Man


CD: The Soul Of A Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
The Soul Of A Woman


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Caught You With Your Pants Down by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I Caught You With Your Pants Down


CD: The Soul Of A Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
The Soul Of A Woman


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Had A Talk With My Man by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I Had A Talk With My Man


CD: Timeless
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Timeless


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Wish You Didn't Love Me So Good by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I Wish You Didn't Love Me So Good


CD: Unleashed
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Unleashed


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy If I Were Your Woman by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
If I Were Your Woman


CD: Holding My Own
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Holding My Own


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Too Much Candy by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Too Much Candy


CD: Woman Enough
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Woman Enough


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'd Have To Be Stuck On Stupid by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
I'd Have To Be Stuck On Stupid


CD: Woman Enough
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Woman Enough


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Sweet Lips, Big Hips by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
Sweet Lips, Big Hips


CD: Holding My Own
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Holding My Own


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy This Used To Be Your House by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
This Used To Be Your House


CD: Intimate Storm
Label: 4th & Broadway

Sample or Buy
Intimate Storm


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy You're Gonna Make Me Cry by Shirley Brown (21st Century)
You're Gonna Make Me Cry


CD: Joy & Pain
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Joy & Pain


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