Kim Erickson/Rodney Brown: An Unlikely Combination Worked

by Peter Fergus-Moore 
From The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal: Tuesday March 6th, 2001
(reprinted with permission)

Our deep, dark history is full of unlikely combinations of items that produced new and startling results: think of the conjunction of bread and meat (or cheese) that still bears the name of its originator, The Earl of Sandwich. The music world has plenty of such combinations - one of them happened at Red Rock’s Nipigon/Red Rock High School Friday night, with Kim Erickson and Rodney Brown.

It wouldn’t have been my idea to bring Erickson and Brown together. Each comes from such different musical perspectives and has such dissimilar voices and instrumentation that as I set out to review their "Live from the Rock" concert, I really wondered how the whole thing was going to come off.

Their first set largely reinforced my perception, though their opening duet, Brown’s reggae-flavoured "Into the Woods", showed some promise. The acoustic guitar and piano (to me, the cat and dog of the music world) worked well together as did their voices. But then Brown took the stage alone with a selection of acoustic folk numbers from his first two albums, including his moody winter anthem "When the Bay Turns Blue". Erickson returned for a series of her compositions, including "Away" and "Hickory Dickory". Here the differences between the two artists came to the fore - could they really work together?

The penny dropped in their set closing piece Erickson’s "Deep Water". After an initial sound imbalance, the instruments blended powerfully with Erickson's and Brown’s voices jelling perfectly. "Deep Water" is country in style, its lyrics and chord progressions showing what the genre could have been had not Hank Williams trussed it up in a three chord rhyming-couplet straightjacket many decades ago. In the hands of these two musicians, the song and the combination took off and soared. So did the second set.

Each debuted a new composition, Erickson her "Walking by the River" and Brown "The Forgotten Ones", as well as working on familiar pieces together for the second set of the evening . Brown’s gentle guitar work softened the piano in "River" while Erickson’s piano and voice added much to Brown’s "Love’s Changes". Despite some tentative backup vocals on occasion, each duet showed that Brown and Erickson are much more than just two musicians sharing a stage: together, they make up a new full sound, an experience Thunder Bay audiences will have when they reunite on Saturday March 31st for a concert at the Lakehead Unitarian Fellowship.

By the end of the second set, Brown and Erickson had the audience of some 50 people completely under their spell. They put some new life into that show-tune chestnut "Don’t Fence Me In", and such was their (and the audience’s) comfort level, that they gave the sense of having worked together for decades. Their encore; Bob Dylan’s "I Shall Be Released" was particularly strong in vocals and will be a powerful addition to the forthcoming Terry Fiorito Memorial Concert this Sunday night.

We can be grateful for such unlikely combinations!