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The conundrum with this release should be fairly obvious to anyone at just a glance and that is neither side is apt to have strong commercial appeal.

The designated A-side was a good idea done in by bad songwriting and arranging, a timid vocal and misguided musical contributions from most of the band.

This side, while of much higher quality in every department, is too bleak to generate a lot of enthusiasm, particularly in rock circles, and as a result Roy Brown closes out his best year as a recording artist with a whimper rather than a bang.


You Don’t Live Here No More
One of the primary differences between rock and blues is their respective worldviews. Rock is usually a more celebratory music, optimistic in its outlook of life which was reflected in upbeat arrangements with declaratory vocals… all things Roy Brown specialized in.

By contrast the blues was downbeat music that reflected a comparatively dire existence on the margins of society and its subject matter typically was reflective of the idea that if the worst can happen it will… and then be immortalized in song where the misery is apparent in the vocals.

This is of course a far too broad generalization to make, for there are many blues songs that are full of vibrant joy just as there are plenty of rock songs featuring hand-wringing despair, but the image persists because each genre has an out-sized proportion of those signature elements.

Modern histories tend to want to confine artists based on prevailing cultural, not musical, images and thus Roy Brown is frequently called a blues artist… which he was most decidedly not, as any survey of his catalog would attest.

But for those who cling to this belief, the presence of a song like Double Crossin’ Woman on his résumé might be their opening salvo in any debate, because this has all of the elements that a blues song of the day would also possess from the slow guitar opening and fills to the murder theme and despondency in the vocals.

Of course it has a few distinctive rock traits as well including a prominent saxophone and Roy’s own vocal exclamations that few bluesman would feel comfortable trying.

What this means is this track falls neatly into the blues-rock category later mined by such diverse artists as Bo Diddley, Cream and Led Zeppelin, yet like them, Brown is a rock artist first and foremost and thus a record like this, while far bluesier than much of his output, is ultimately going to be housed – however uncomfortably – under his primary classification which is rock ‘n’ roll.


Got The Blues For My Baby
There’s of course another fairly obvious link to rock ‘n’ roll that doesn’t even require you to spin the record to see it and that’s the title itself staring out at you which was surely done to mislead those who were just casually perusing the records on a jukebox who might otherwise think this was the Johnny Otis, Little Esther and The Robins smash from last winter, Double Crossin’ Blues, which by the way was even LESS of a blues song than this is.

Actually, the lyrics of this – whatever you call it – really are more of a confession than anything resembling a proper tune. That’s not to say Double Crossin’ Woman isn’t musical, it’s actually laid out very well, but it’s just that the contents are so harrowing that you can’t appreciate the musical qualities as easily because you’re chilled by how casual he is in his confession about murdering the one he loved because she dumped him for his best friend.

Granted he’s sad about the entire affair but it’s clear that his sadness is misplaced. He certainly isn’t glad he shot her so he could enjoy the “good life” as a prisoner, but his real despair comes from not being loved rather than confronting the ramifications of his jealous rage that wound up with him taking her life.

That might make for a really interesting psychological study… I’d be particularly interested to know what his admission of being “really sad and tired” now signifies and if that makes him more or less psychotic than if he had some other reaction to his heinous crimes… but it doesn’t necessarily make for an enjoyable listening experience.

It’s all very well done and you hate to add to his misery by being critical of a song like this by saying it has little appeal, but let’s face it… you aren’t going to be singing along with him as he spins this macabre tale, you can’t dance to the record and you (hopefully) can’t empathize with his predicament.

In other words you’re left to observe this record as emotionally detached as possible and though Brown’s vocals are incredibly effective at portraying this cold-blooded killer, it’s not something we want to revisit to kick off a party or even to pass time alone with late at night.

In fact, about the only way this lends itself to repeated listening is for research purposes and since I’ve met those obligations I’ll be quickly removing it from my playlists and turning to something with a decidedly better outlook. But while we’re here it does deserve some impartial analysis of what it does well.


So Cold And Stormy
The Mighty Mighty Men may have been rockers at heart but this shows they can handle a different approach with relative ease.

The opening guitar by Edgar Blanchard sets the dire mood the rest of the record will follow, his playing is fraught with a curious tension which becomes apparent as you try and guess which direction he’ll head before the lyrics come in to tip you off as to the contents. At times he seems ready to soar, then he pulls it back in and takes on a more reflective tone and that uncertainty is appropriate for what is to come.

Brown’s vocals however leave no doubt as to the grim mindset and with that settled Blanchard’s fills, which are far more prominent here than on the horn-drenched party anthems, become all the more important to lend some neutral commentary on Roy’s confessions. He breaks out all sorts of techniques here from the lazy feel that follows Brown telling us he’s serving time to the more prickly tone he uses when Roy springs the murder itself on us. All of them seem to directly respond to the lyrics and shows why Blanchard was in such demand after he left the group and took on more session work in New Orleans.

The others though aren’t just window dressing as Batman Rankins’s baritone sounds particularly ominous behind Brown’s vocals in setting the scene before Johnny Fontenette takes the lead with his tenor answering his lines in the second section as Brown’s vocals go up in volume as he describes his mindset as he killed her, giving the action a visceral edge.

From there it’s Wilbur Harden’s trumpet that gets the job to carry Double Crossin’ Woman to the finish line, a good use of that instrument to reflect the sorrow that comes with such a desolate performance.

The fact they shifted from guitar to baritone to tenor to trumpet shows just how assiduously this was worked out on paper. Even pianist Edward Santineo is given notable parts in the cracks to add color to the arrangement and we can’t fault any of them for not doing what this record called for.

Everything about this is masterfully executed on every level but it’s just that the record itself is like a dark cloud hanging over you and that’s often the hardest thing to assess, especially in a field that doesn’t usually venture into the shadows this one exists in… so where their trouble ends, ours is just beginning.

These Bars And Chains Don’t Worry Me
In the past we’ve dealt with songs straddling two different genres by stating unequivocally that we’re not concerned with how well they conform to blues or jazz or pop, only how well they fit into rock ‘n’ roll. We’ve “penalized” the likes of Floyd Dixon, Ivory Joe Hunter and plenty of vocal groups who similarly had a foot in two genres at times, by saying that the further away from rock you went, the less vital those records were to the cause.

That holds true here as well, except unlike most of those other records this one is SO good at what it does that it feels wrong to punish them for it.

The problem though is were you to eliminate, or at least downplay, the blues foundations of Double Crossin’ Woman you’d be left with almost nothing of note worth commenting on save for a few vocal passages where Brown lets his voice go and maybe some honks here and there by the saxes and the rather upbeat horn coda, but that’s hardly enough to really get excited about.

Which means this is essentially a rock artist delivering a blues song and as such it would be judged far better in a blues history. Since that’s a genre I have a lot of fondness for I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a (7) in such a setting, even if Brown was something of an interloper who wasn’t going to ever commit to the form full time.

Yet this record’s place in rock history is far more tenuous. Brown wasn’t going to go much further down this path and so it’s hardly going to change his direction or have any impact on how rock would develop in the future. While it’s a good performance by all involved it’s not one that is going to be widely embraced by the very fans buying it and so as unfair as it seems, he can’t even reach an average score for it in this specific context.

That shouldn’t matter, every song here should be heard and appraised on people’s own merits, not mine. If I was writing a blues history this would get high scores and if we included Brown’s rock sides there for various “bluesy qualities” they’d be the ones getting low scores for not adhering to the basic precepts of the genre. It’s not unfair to do so, it’s simply the parameters changing.

But then again maybe this lower score is fitting after all… considering Roy Brown doesn’t seem to have any remorse for the actual crimes he sings about, justice has to be served somehow.


(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)