Star quality

With a prototype 1970s rocker appearance and magnetic stage presence, Oli Brown has set the blues world on its ear.

oli brown_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
oli brown_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For so many years music fans in Israel got used to world-class musical acts from the US and England bypassing us, that we’re as grateful as puppies when someone actually comes to perform. Doesn’t matter if their prime was in 1975 or that they’re still riding on the coattails of that one hit they had in 1986 or that there are no longer any original members of the group still performing, the fact they deemed us worthy of their attention is enough.
It’s not to say there’s against the oldies revivals and the has-beens or never-weres that regularly show up on the local circuit. Some of them are fantastic, like the Hot Tuna show late last year which proved that age and being in style have nothing to do with musicianship and soul.
But when a bona fide up-and-coming future great books a show here – someone about whom you’ll be able to say ‘I saw him in a club back in 2011’ – then it’s really time to celebrate.
Oli Brown is that future great, a 21- year-old British rock-blues guitarist and singer who’s got “star” written all over him. With a prototype tall, thin and long hair 1970s rocker appearance and magnetic stage presence, Brown has set the blues world on its ear with two albums combining flash and tradition and live shows bristling with the energy of a young guitar master in his element.
Brown first picked up a guitar at age 12 in his home in Sco Ruston, a hamlet near Norfolk, about two hours away from London, a picturesque, until then tranquil place that enabled him to concentrate on one thing.
“There are pretty much no houses around, which is nice for playing guitar quite loud,” said the personable Brown during a phone conversation last month.
By the time he was 15, he was already good enough to be invited to tour the US with an American blues band, Blinddog Smokin, an experience that found him playing with American musical giants like Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal.
Brown formed The Oli Brown Band in 2007 when he was 17, and the next year he released his debut album Open Roads, which was voted the Number Two blues album of the year by readers of Blues Matters! Magazine. The buzz attracted legendary producer Mike Vernon, who’s worked with Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie, prompting him to come out of semi-retirement to take the helm of Brown’s follow-up album, 2010’s Heads I Win, Tails You Lose. The record received similar accolades; Brown headlined the blues and jazz stage at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival and won Male Vocalist of the Year and Young Artist of the Year at the 2010 British Blues Awards.
All that could go to a young man’s head, but Brown seems to be more grounded than most musicians twice or three times his age.
“All I want to do is play music in front of people. With all that’s happened to me over the last four years, it’s a bit nuts but I wouldn’t want to change anything. It’s amazing that people are interested in hearing me and that I can go to places like Tel Aviv. I feel very lucky and privileged.”
Fans who attend his show will not only be able to tell their grandchildren they saw Oli Brown when… but extra treats include local guitar hero Avi Singolda joining Brown for some jamming, and opening act the blazing Lazer Lloyd. A blues night guaranteed for all.
Saturday at Reading 3, Tel Aviv, NIS 179-209, (03) 762-4000,