Release: July 24 , 2020
Label: Wolfe Island Records
The Ropes is the eponymously titled album from Hugh Christopher Brown, Jason Mercer and Pete Bowers.
The band was born this past year on Wolfe Island where the three neighbours have become an in-house house rhythm section for Wolfe Island Records, recording tracks for the constant flow of artists through Brown’s island studio, The Post Office.
Brown had written a collection of songs on the Steinway B at the island hotel, where he, Mercer and Bowers would gather after closing time for frequent jams following recording sessions. Eventually, the trio moved recording equipment into the hotel to capture what was happening, and the album was begun.
Following the initial after hours hotel sessions, Brown took the music to New York, working arrangements with Tony Scheer, Michael Blake, Teddy Kumpel and lifelong music partner, Kate Fenner.
Brown, Mercer and Fenner began playing together as teenagers when they formed the legendary Canadian band, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. After a decade on the road, the band disbanded, with Brown and Fenner heading to NYC where they continued making records as a duo. Mercer found his way to New York, and spent the past years as a member of Ron Sexsmith and Ani Difranco’s bands , as well as recording, producing and touring for many others. The Ropes unites Brown, Fenner and Mercer for the first time since The BTC.
Pete Bowers describes meeting Brown and Mercer when they became residents of the village of Marysville on Wolfe Island, but had known them from years earlier when he used to attend Bourbons’ shows in high school- “The fact that all these years later I get to not only make music with these folks that were so influential in my early musical listening and playing, but that they have become such close friends is truly astonishing to me”. r
The Ropes is grounded in the trio’s love of a myriad of music and poetry, especially the works of folk and soul artists of the early 70’s. Brown relates something indelible BB King told him when he and Fenner were touring with the legendary musician in 2002 – ” You know Chris, people call my music blues, but when I was growing up, I wasn’t playing county, or blues, or jazz or folk…I was playing music. It was all music, and the way it came to me I did not dispute” . For Brown, whose life in music has spanned genres, these words echo. He produces albums for artists across the spectrum, including his years of work making music inside prisons. This album reflects Brown’s musical passions from many angles, including work with former inmates who now participate in his productions on the outside.
With ‘The Ropes’ Brown comes of age and steps to the front of the stage with that wealth of feeling and talent he’s used to enrich so many other artists works, myself included – David Corley
“As one of Canada’s consummate musicians over the past three decades, Hugh Christopher Brown has always tapped into the spiritual healing power of song. It’s the kind of soul music few artists outside of, say, Van Morrison, ever attempt…” – Jason Schneider/FYI Music News Canada
“Brown’s Pacem is one of those albums that works on the listener from the inside out. The more I listen, the more I am astonished by its depth and intricacy. ..masterfully constructed songs, stream of consciousness epic ballads, and a piano instrumental where Brown gently demonstrates his virtuoso talents and interpretive depth.” – Huffington Post