Marilyn Ashford Brown - Just Doing Me! (2009)

Marilyn Ashford Brown
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No matter what folks may have you believe, there is actually no such thing as an ‘overnight success.' For every comedian who gets that career-defining film cameo, there are others who are just as hilarious and camera-ready still struggling in the clubs. For every performer who's debut release hits number one, there are peers who are equally as talented, yet don't get their shine until that well-produced or better-promoted sophomore set.  Exemplifying this reality is singer and songwriter Marilyn Ashford Brown, whose third CD, Just Doing Me!, finally packages her gifts in the crisp, contemporary wrapping that they deserve.

No matter what folks may have you believe, there is actually no such thing as an ‘overnight success.' For every comedian who gets that career-defining film cameo, there are others who are just as hilarious and camera-ready still struggling in the clubs. For every performer who's debut release hits number one, there are peers who are equally as talented, yet don't get their shine until that well-produced or better-promoted sophomore set.  Exemplifying this reality is singer and songwriter Marilyn Ashford Brown, whose third CD, Just Doing Me!, finally packages her gifts in the crisp, contemporary wrapping that they deserve.

Fans have every reason to applaud her return: just as she did in her previous effort, Still Standing, Ms. Brown occupies the executive producer's chair, and her voice is as full and commanding as ever, but the noticeable difference between Just... and Still... is the addition of Derek Willie to the boards, which keeps her sound classic without coming off as too dated or redundant. She's also back to flexing that pen again, writing the lyrics to all but one song, and she wields it skillfully on a variety of subjects, such as maintaining optimism in a too-negative world ("I've Got a Feeling"), casting aside fear and doubt long enough to contemplate a new  relationship ("Gonna Give Love [One More Try]") and "Old-School," a badge she dons proudly instead of chucking aside to ‘blend in': "I don't make no apologies, music is a part of me," is a verse she sings not only as a matter of fact, but also to explain her artistic mission in life.

Her vocals and music aren't the only thing that's become more contemporary: Ms. Brown shows that she's nobody's fool when it comes to the game of love, asking a duplicitious suitor what he's hiding in "You're Never There":  "I just can't understand, why you treat me the way you do. Do you have a secret, are you in the closet?" (whoa!) She also doubles her singing tempo for the frenetic "How Much," where she tells a too-flashy beau that she could care less about his bling, because she's holding it down for herself just fine, thank you very much: "I'm not impressed, so stop bragging about it; I'm not impressed, please stop about it. I'm not impressed with material things, I've got my own thing!" And never claiming to be a wallfower, she shuts down a potential player on "Commitment" and warns a friend to leave an abusive man alone with the none-too-subtle "Don't Be Stupid," delivered with a sage edge that only wisdom and experience can bring.

The opposite of ‘stagnation' is ‘evolution' as far as art is concerned, and with Just Doing Me, Ms. Brown demonstrates that she is about the former rather than the latter. Just as there's diamonds to be found ("This Man of Mine" and the remake of Diane Schurr's interpretation of "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon"), there are the occasional lumps of coal here and there too (the meandering "Joy" and "You'll Never Find {Another Love Like Me} remix," which starts out refreshingly with guest rapper Lasalle Marciani dropping the first verse, but soon becomes tedious when he's given way too much time on the mic, which makes Ms. Brown seem like an afterthought visiting vocalist on her own track). However, as long as Marilyn Ashford Brown keeps her approach to the music as lively and ambitious as she's proven herself to be, then continuing to do it her way is exactly what should ensure her continually expanding success. Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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