Leonard “Lowdown” Brown
Blues Is Calling Me
Music Maker Foundation

Debut albums are typically a summary of the artist’s life. A teen will probably sing about their high school girlfriend or their first heartbreak. But what about an artist with decades of life to pull from?

At 70, Houston’s Leonard “Lowdown” Brown is releasing his debut, Blues is Calling Me. It’s a mix of nostalgic soul and modern blues, sounds and melodies that have weaved throughout Brown’s life.

This album was made possible by the Music Maker Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to meet “the day-to-day needs of artists who create traditional American music, ensuring their voices are heard, and gives all people access to our nation’s hidden music treasures.” The foundation’s drummer and producer, Ardie Dean, joins Brown on the album, along with “Microwave” Dave Galaher on guitar, Tony Grady on bass and Dan Hochner on keys and bass.

“Juke Joint” sets the scene with some youthful funk and good ol’ storytelling, while “You Gotta Move” closes the album with strong keys and a gospel voice. Both are snapshots of Brown’s  childhood and teenage years.

Brown does an impressive job elsewhere of painting pictures of situations that could be taken literally, but then you dive so deep into the lyrics you begin to interpret them in other ways. In “Find A Bridge,” the earnestness in his voice reflects the struggle to survive a natural catastrophe. “I’ve been walking on the river all day,” he sings, “I gotta find a bridge so I can get to the other side.” However, the words are relatable enough that they could apply to any hardship that makes you feel like you’re moving against the tide.

Brown allows the same space for interpretation in “Can’t Buy Time,” which, on the surface, sounds easygoing but carries a lot more depth as he lays out desperate situation after desperate situation.

“Blues Makes Me Feel Good” flows right after “Can’t Buy Time,” almost acting as a remedy to all that despair. It’s slow yet steadily builds in its optimism. “Some people say the blues makes them feel real sad, but I say the blues makes me feel good,” he sings. “I’ve been playing the blues all my life, and the blues makes me feel just like I should.”


You can figure out how the blues actually makes you feel with the instrumental “Lowdown’s Blues” immediately after. While Brown has held onto some songs on this album for years, “Lowdown’s Blues” was made on the spot in the studio. It’s effortless and cool, and gives that well-needed exhale after the energetic first half of the album.

Brown finishes the album with the strongest songs. He picks the energy back up with “Let Me Live My Life,” which has the hallmarks of classic blues — repetition and resistance. “Take A Friend” follows, appearing to be the modern response to “Find A Bridge.” Similarly, “Blues is Calling Me” serves as a modern echo to “Blues Makes Me Feel Good.”

For an album decades in the making, Blues is Calling Me shows how cyclical life is. We can face the same struggle in different forms and change our response every time. We can also be inspired by the same thing, even as it evolves in our lives.

For Brown, that’s the blues, and in this debut, it’s exciting to see how years of different influences layered that blues over time.

Cover photo courtesy Music Maker Foundation