The Browns - A Country Music Odyssey

Published Friday 2nd July 2010
The Browns - A Country Music Odyssey
The Browns - A Country Music Odyssey

STYLE: Country
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Bear Family

Reviewed by Dave Brassington

July 3rd 2009 was the 50th anniversary of The Browns' recording of "The Three Bells". Some writers have suggested that this homespun narrative song, which became an international hit, describing the life and death of one Jimmy Brown is one of the finest gospel songs ever written! I must confess that I have never considered it as such, but its folksy appeal clearly connected with a mass audience. The song was originally known as "Les Trois Cloches" and recorded by and made famous in the early '50s by Les Compagnons De La Chanson and after the Browns' million seller has been recorded by hundreds of acts, one of the latest being The Isaacs on a recent Gaither Homecoming DVD. The Browns consisted of Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie. They signed to RCA in 1956 and had a string of hits until '67 when Jim Ed perused a successful career specialising in honky tonk songs. This CD represents tremendous value for money as it has 36 tracks, personally selected by one of the sisters, including a couple of songs that have never been issued before. In their spell with RCA Records in the late '50s to mid '60s, The Browns recorded a couple of gospel albums and two gospel tracks are featured here: "When They Ring Those Golden Bells" and "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet". The accompanying sleeve notes are some of the most insightful I have read in a long time, graphically describing how the family were 'ripped off' financially and discarded as tastes change. Their biggest hit "The Three Bells" came just when they were about to be dropped by the record label, but sister Maxine suggested the song and master producer Chet Atkins gave it the full Nashville sound. For real country devotees the earlier tracks featured here are best including "I Heard The Bluebells Sing" one of the very best country harmony recordings you could ever wish to hear.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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