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Record Review: Marilyn Ashford-Brown's 'Just Doing Me!'

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Friday, September 4, 2009

MARILYN ASHFORD-BROWN

"Just Doing Me!"

Kindred spirits: Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, Marvin Gaye

Show: Wednesday at Blues Alley. Shows start at 8 and 10 p.m. 202-337-4141. http://www.bluesalley.com.

Marilyn Ashford-Brown isn't the sort of R&B vocalist who needs to rely on songwriters for inspiration, and her output almost always seems tailor-made to suit her talents and capitalize on her influences. The veteran vocalist insists that she's "old-school" on her latest release, "Just Doing Me!," an album almost entirely devoted to original songs.

Listeners scarcely need to be reminded of her musical roots when she alludes to Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke on the inspirational opener, "I've Got a Feeling," or when she lets her voice soar from sassy tones to falsetto flourishes on other cuts. Producer-keyboardist Derek Willie underscores her ties to vintage R&B and classic soul with arrangements laced with funk accents, double-stop guitar licks and dramatic modulations.

Still, for all her old-school passions and yearning balladry, Ashford-Brown is very much a contemporary artist. An alliance with rapper Lasalle Marciani comes off without a hitch on "Commitment," a cover of "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon" shines brightly and there are times, on "Don't Be Stupid" and other tracks, when the lyrics prove topical and pointed. In the end, Ashford-Brown covers a lot ground, with personality and assurance to spare.

-- Mike Joyce


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