If you were to ask South Carolina musician Carroll Brown what he considers himself to be, the word “songwriter” probably wouldn’t be the first one out of his mouth. “Entertainer,” probably, or “working musician,” perhaps.
Brown has been playing music for over three decades, mostly to the tourists of Charleston, where he survived a dozen years of four-hour, six night a week gigs in a downtown hotel lounge and by his own admission came out a better performer for it. He sticks mostly to playing Irish music on the southeastern pub circuit now, from Savannah to Greenville, Columbia, and down through parts of Georgia and Florida, but since 1994 he has held down a steady Sunday evening slot at Dunleavy’s on Sullivan’s Island where just about anyone could walk in the door and sit in with him after their own beach gigs are done.
The repertoire Brown has perfected over the years is a comforting mixture of classic American country and rock standards, from Don Williams to Jim Croce, Little Feat, James Taylor, and more. A few of his younger years were spent in Nashville where he made friends with some eventually more famous songwriters, and he’ll pull out a song or two from their deep catalog most nights, too.
Though his main gig has always been playing familiar tunes for barroom background music, Brown has also been a studio owner for many years and periodically he’ll put out a collection of his own songs. This year he rounded up a batch of them he hadn’t put on other releases, recorded new versions, and issued it as simply Songwriter.
Given the varied pedigree of the tunes, the disc is surprisingly coherent, reflecting Brown’s main influences of 70’s pop and country music. I’ll give away the hidden track at the end because even though it’s an original recording from the downside of the disco era, the song itself is a catchy tune that nearly escapes the dated production.
Songs such as “Hot Saturday Night” reflect the barroom setting in which Brown cut his musical teeth early on, while “A Place Called Time Will Tell” proves that he can write songs as compelling as the ones from others that he plays every night. While you might not hear Brown pull out these songs as often as he might “Carolina In My Mind,” if you happen to be at Dunleavy’s on a Sunday night I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you requested one–tell him it’s for me.