Nappy Brown
Who's Been Foolin' You
New Moon Blues 9417
Nappy Brown's voice has the soul singer's extra dimension, and it works best when he's playing something with a little more nuance than pure blues. Though the anti-drug message in "I'm Too Cool" gets a little heavy, Brown's rambling spoken-word asides, which lead directly into the snappy chorus, nicely lighten up the song.

These nice extra touches -- like the New Orleans marching rhythm that begins the playful "Piddly Patter" and the gospel-barbershop harmonies that string together "I'm Getting Lonesome" -- are the second-best thing about Who's Been Foolin' You. Best is the rich lead singing: Even when the music settles down, as it does on the slow "Is It True," the natural cry in Brown's crooning voice pulls the song higher.

Brown, best known for a string of hit R&B singles in the '50s, including the frequently covered "The Right Time," has been making blues-dominated albums for the past 15 years. His blues are just fine: The opening songs on Who's Been Foolin' You, including the title track and "I Cried Like a Baby," are competently played and adequately swinging.

But there's more to Brown. "I need a jump start, baby, I'm moving kind of slow," he sings, on a fast version of Randy Friel's "Jumpstart." Halfway through the album, he proceeds to give himself one, beginning several choruses by summoning Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. When Brown jumps from blues to R&B -- and touches on rock'n'roll -- you know there's juice left in this old battery.

-- Steve Knopper

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Boulder, CO, USA.