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Nick Brown and Andrew Harrison at Bierock
February 17 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pmFree
Fifteen years ago, Andrew Harrison and his bandmates in Madison country outfit Earl Foss And The Brown Derby were straight-up stoked when Nick Brown answered a Craigslist ad to join the band on bass. Brown Derby ruled the city in those days, at least for people who dug “moody bastard” country music, as Brown calls it. The group was in the midst of a long string of weekly shows at the Crystal Corner Bar. “We were excited because this Nick guy who replied to our ad just moved here from Texas,” remembers Harrison. “We were hoping he could lend some credibility to our honky-tonk sound.”
By the time the members of Brown Derby learned Brown was actually from Michigan, well, it didn’t matter. They were off to the races. The band had its core configuration and put in hard stage time, earning an appreciative following with irony-free country covers and loud, haystack-in-hell originals like “God’s Green Acre.”
So began the Brown and Harrison collaboration that will be on rare, scaled-down display as a duo at this Bierock show. While they’ve played together ever since, both have stayed busy with other projects as well. Harrison toured with Madison folk rockers Count This Penny (who have often covered Brown’s song “Living That Way”) and played with other bands in town including The New Hiram Kings as well as Whitney Mann. These days Harrison can also be seen playing with the brand new, old-country outfit Nate Gibson And The Stardazers.
Brown’s first solo album, 2012’s Slow Boat, featured plenty of Harrison’s restrained but evocative playing on guitar and pedal steel—and will be a likely source for some of the music they’ll play as a duo. Brown has maintained a full band for live shows and the 2017 EP Contender. (More recently, Brown has put out two singles, “Somewhere” and “Ghosts.”) But, unlike Harrison, who by comparison is straight-laced and all business, Brown gets nutty with his side projects. Like the variety show series he did with a rotating cast that included the late Jim Schwall and Dan Walkner (Wrenclaw) at the Harmony Bar.
In Brown and Harrison’s close collaborations on original work, they’re great foils, both in sound and personality: Harrison’s playing heightens the rugged earnestness of Brown’s more somber moments (again, “Living That Way,” Slow Boat‘s show-stopping opener), and hint at the deeper yearnings behind the smart-asses and fuckups who populate songs like “Contender” and “Light Beer And Heavy Hearts.”
Brown’s songwriting leans more Kristofferson than Jerry Reed (one of Harrison’s heroes). A professional copywriter by trade, he earned his Masters in Journalism and American Literature at Texas State. Book learning is put to good use in his songwriting. “His literary background comes across in his lyrics,” says Harrison.
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