So here he is. The great white hope of British guitar. The young man blues sensation. The rock 'n' roll alchemist who fires a bullet-belt of influences into the mix. The heart-on-sleeve songwriter who bleeds onto the lyric sheet and solos like his soul is hard-wired to his fingers. The mover, shaker and rule-breaker, who drags the dusty conventions of the blues into the millennium by the hair. But if you thought you knew the real Oli Brown, you don't know the half of it. Please allow him to introduce himself. Three albums into his career, Here I Am finds Oli letting down the barriers, showing his cards, turning the spotlight on himself and defying you to turn off your stereo. "The new album is called Here I Am," he explains, "because I'm saying, 'this is me'. People know when something isn't believable. I'm just trying to be honest."Here I Am is the sound of an artist on the crest of a wave. When Oli hit the studio in Nottingham after a triumphant 2011, he had the plaudits of fans, press, peers and heroes ringing in his ears, a truck-load of trophies and a huge weight of expectation. Most 22-year-olds would have felt pressure, but with his dream team around him - drummer/producer Wayne Proctor and bassist Scott Barnes - Oli rode the red light and chased down 12 classic songs to hand over to Magic Garden Mastering's Brian Lucey (fresh from The Black Keys' El Camino album). It's a tracklisting that runs the gauntlet, from Thinking About Her's grooving ode to a seductress, past the desolate break-up blues of All We Had To Give, to the stinger missile Solid Ground that features Paul Jones on harmonica and signs off the album with a slam-dunk. "Ain't tryin' to be no Jimi or Stevie, I wanna be my goddamn self," Oli roars on the title track, and even on covers of Donny Hathaway's I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know and Nikka Costa's Like A Feather, he has both hands on the wheel. Oli Brown has stepped it up. Again.
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