Kane Brown – Spark Arena: September 25, 2022

Kane Brown is a hot item in country music in America currently, and he delivered a show of genre-bending spectacular Americana to a wildly enthusiastic audience of Kiwi heartland country music fans.

It looked like most of them had been standing in huge lines outside the Arena well before the doors opened. They were dressed in short skirts (that is one of the song titles), cowboy boots and hats. Some Nudie suit styles. Overwhelmingly the 17 to 35 age group. Your older country buffs were hard to find there.

kane brownThe reason was obvious from the opening number Riot. Rapping vocals with a distinct R’n’B swagger. A rhythmic assault with big thundering drums. The opening salvo came complete with all-consuming flames on the background Vmax screen. It morphed into a country rap.

I hope you’re not around when I draw my gun/ I will defend my home/ And start a riot in the middle of the night.

Uncovering roots of country and the myriad aspects of what goes into making American music, one of that country’s greatest exports to the rest of the world.

Kane Brown was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That’s deep Southern culture right there. His mother is Caucasian and father African-American and Cherokee. A Hendrix soul mix. Growing up was challenging with father in prison mostly, and mother constantly moving and occasionally homeless. He didn’t know he was black until he got called the N-word in primary school.

Grew up with both country and R’n’B music in his ears. This was the norm for black musicians from the Twenties, when the first golden era of American music took off. Everyone listened to the Grand Ole Op’ry and Border Radio. 50,000 watts out of Mexico/ This is the Border Radio sang the Blasters. The idea of genres developed later as things got more commercialised. There is country in Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. There is blues in the Carter Family and Uncle Dave Macon.

Brown is bringing it all back home and smashing it all together as in a particle accelerator and what is flying out is hot and incendiary. We can call it country or call it americana. That may just catch it all.

Reckless Road

Reckless Road is a country vocal trio who have been whipping up a storm as well, after forming as a group in the aftermath of an X Factor series. Kane Brown has been a collaborator and mentor.

They are Zach Beeken, Colton Pack and Garrett Nichols. Two tenors and a baritone. One of them has a Billy Ray Cyrus big hair mullet.

Hometown Tonight and Took a Look at Her Mama. They do galloping country rock on the hoof like Tom Petty. A smooth and easy vocal blend in the manner of the Eagles. The baritone voice brings it back closer to older vocal harmony groups like the Blackwood Quartet or the Oak Ridge Boys. Echoes of doo-wop rise up.

The centrepiece of their opening set is Take Me Home. Pack is from West Virginia which is where those Blue Ridge Mountains are, and this song is an homage to the John Denver classic. Their take has a gospel testifying sound.

The songs are upbeat and feelgood, they have swing along with the country rock.

Growing Old With You is a nice country ballad with a warmth of emotion reminding me of the early Eagles.

They are on stage tonight to raise the spirits, and end with another hoofing country pop banger, Bar Friends. That’s church friends, work friends, red dirt friends, great friend and fake friends. That would cover it all.

Kane Brown

Brown began his musical journey on social media. He sang covers of his influences.

Hometown has a similar intro to the Rolling Stone’s Honky Tonk Women and it maintains that country rock swagger and sly piss-taking humour.

He would be thoroughly immersed in the old masters. A version of Ol’ Red as done by George Jones. Done acapella and it showcases beautifully his smooth easy voice.

But then he drops a real hardcore rap with a cover of Soulja Boy’s Crank That. A rhythmic assault with drums detonating, and some dub in the delivery.

Like I Love Country Music is all hootchie-cootchie and Johnny and June. A fiddle which could not be heard just prior, now comes to the front. It’s country swing time, with little jazz flourishes. He reminds us that back in the Thirties, that’s how country swing developed, by taking up other genres and basically spawning Rock’n’Roll as one of its byproducts. Its heyday was in the aftermath of the Depression and the Thirties.

One Mississippi is country soul with a deep Southern flavour.

Good As You is unashamedly sentimental, with I just wanna wake up every day here in this bed with you. He can rise up in dramatic gospel spirit.

There are a number of rap vocals with an R’n’B element. At times it can come across as country punk. Many times, you hear about the more traditional blues artists who disdain rap as an art form and are openly hostile. But then you look at James Brown, who was Godfather of many things including rap. He recorded on the King/Federal label for Sid King for many years, which was predominantly a country and bluegrass company. His shows in the South were de facto integrated in the late Fifties.

African-Americans have a habit of disdaining their great artists. Blues was ignored in the Fifties as poor people’s music. Hendrix was an Uncle Tom sell-out and banned on Black radio stations. Blues and R’n’B was shunned as the devil’s music. That was whites too.

Bury Me in Georgia is a stand-out song on his just-released album Different Man, and it brings all these contrasts and dichotomies together in a stunning masterwork on stage tonight.

Six miles out of Chattanooga/ There’s a no-name road off Highway 2. Some vocoder vocals. Eastern melodies begin until the scary Delta blues slides rise up. Lead guitar pulls off a few nasty and jagged AC-DC riffs.

The show finishes with two of his biggest numbers. Heaven and What Ifs. Rock riffs abound and the great band let it all out. Changes in dynamics and tempo. A final rhythmic battering as the drums let go with the heavy artillery. A banjo appears for the finale.

That’s country music now, baby. You will find it equally confronting and compelling. From Kane Brown, let’s get real, real gone for a change.

Rev Orange Peel

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:

Kane Brown:

Restless Road: