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Here I Am ()

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"Ain't trying to be no Jimi or Stevie/I want to be my G-damned self," proclaims up and coming U.K. blues rocker Oli Brown on the lead-off title track to his third release. He follows up that defiant declamation with a shuffle that nicks the lick from Vaughan's "Cold Shot" on the derivative "Thinking About Her." Whether he realizes that or not, it's a good indication that there aren't many guitar players bringing new or fresh ideas to the table in this genre. Just 22 when this album was released in 2012, you can forgive Brown for his youthful enthusiasm, especially when there is so much energy exuding from these dozen tracks, all but two self-composed. Like many of his peers, he whips off some solid riff rockers such as "Manic Boom" and "Devil in Me," and a convincing enough Chuck Berry lick in "Start It Again" with skill and talent. His boyish vocals are charming if not quite as edgy as some of his angrier lyrics about lost love require, even if he did win Best Male Vocalist at the 2010 British Blues Awards. Brown can write a hummable, soulful melody, as on the ballad "All We Had to Give"; it's as good as any pop song on the charts with the extra enticement of a tasty guitar solo. But a reasonably hot cover of Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears gem "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" points out that nothing here is up to that song's quality. Too much of Brown's material just isn't unique or powerful enough to break him free from others plying similar territory who can also sling out a strong guitar lick and write good, not great, material. When he gets down and somewhat dirty on the swampy "You Can Only Blame Yourself" and a bit funky on "Remedy," he's staking out more fertile area. There isn't really enough of that, though, to make this the album that will elevate his status, especially in the States, where he is another also-ran in a crowded field trying to establish himself among many similarly talented musicians. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi Hide synopsis

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