Eden Brent talks ‘Getaway Blues,’ seeing American musical greats perform, and playing Marietta this weekend

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MARIETTA, Ohio (WOUB) – Known for her soulful vocals and skillful piano playing, Eden Brent has a new record, entitled Getaway Blues, on deck, set for release this summer.

She’ll have advance copies of the album available this weekend when she performs at the River City Blues Festival at the Lafayette Hotel (101 Front Street).

Eden Brent spoke with WOUB Culture about that new album, her musical history, and why it’s so important to keep supporting roots music, in the Q&A you’ll find below. 

A promotional image of Eden Brent. She is sitting at a train station by herself in a red dress.
Eden Brent. [Photo by Rory Doyle]
Emily Votaw: How would you describe your music, in one sentence? 
Eden Brent: My music is lyrically driven, vocally expressive, and stylistically emerges from an intersection where blues, jazz, gospel, and country all overlap, giving the music an authentic quality.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Brent: I don’t really have an earliest musical memory. Music was a pastime in our household, and I recall family sing-a-longs and learning piano and guitar as a very young girl. My parents were generous with concert outings so I saw folks like Elvis Presley in concert, but I think that I decided to be a performing musician after singing a one-line solo of Do, Re, Mi in a local production of The Sound of Music.
Throughout my school years teachers had me lead the class in our morning song after the Pledge of Allegiance whether it be My Country ‘Tis of Thee or The Star Spangled Banner. I was assigned the lead female part in our fifth grade musical. I must have shown an aptitude for music more than other students, so I guess it was natural for me to make it my profession.
Your latest album, Getaway Blues, was produced by your husband, Bob Dowell. Could you share what it was like to work with your husband in that capacity?
Brent: My husband Bob is a marvelous arranger and musician so I trust his musical instincts which are far superior to mine! It is such a joy to just be able to perform a song rather than having to worry about arranging it or producing the album. We co-wrote all of the songs. We never wrote songs together before, so it was a fresh experience. For the most part, Bob came up with song lyrics and a chord progression, and I wrote the melodies, changing the words to fit the melody or make the song more personal to me.
We brought our own ideas and then blended them together. It was exciting, and it worked really well. We didn’t really collaborate simultaneously until the songs were partly finished, but he would share his contribution, and then I would share mine. It resulted in what I consider my favorite album to date.
Getaway Blues is described as your “bluesiest” album to date. Was that intentional? Or did the album just become that way over the course of its creation?  
Brent: Bob and I focused on writing blues songs for this album, and this is the first album I’ve ever recorded all original songs. Bob encouraged me to try new blues sounds and to play new things. For instance, there is a song called Rust which is a very slow blues, and the only really slow blues that I have ever recorded. But while the song is a slow, 12-bar blues, it doesn’t follow the typical chord progression precisely. So this album has classic, traditional blues, but they are fresh takes on very familiar ideas. I think we intentionally tried to get back to my blues roots since it is such a large influence in my life.
As a musician, how did you gravitate towards playing blues?
Brent: My hometown of Greenville, MS has hosted the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival every third Saturday in September for the past 46 years. Bobby Rush plays the festival nearly every year, as did Koko Taylor and Denise LaSalle before they passed. Almost every blues notable performed the festival through the years, so I saw performances by Memphis Slim, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughn and so many others right there in my hometown. There were also performances by noted international blues acts that lived locally, people like Eugene Powell (also known as Sonny Boy Nelson), Son Thomas, T Model Ford, Willie Foster, Eddie Cusic, and my mentors, pianist Abie “Boogaloo” Ames and Lil’ Bill Wallace.
In addition to the Delta Blues Festival, B. B. King held a Homecoming event every June in his hometown of Indianola which is only 25 miles away, so I saw him perform in really small venues annually. Little Milton and Bobby Blue Bland played in local clubs. I was immersed in the sounds of blues living in the Mississippi Delta my whole life, and so it is familiar to me, and I really love it and want to honor it. Boogaloo tutored me for many years, and I want to carry on the tradition and hopefully continue it into this new century and beyond.
The River City Blues Festival is organized by the Mid-Ohio Valley Blues, Jazz, and Folk Music Society, a non-profit with a mission to “promote blues, jazz, and folk music.” Why is that mission so important?
Brent: Blues, jazz and folk music belong to us, the people, collectively. These genres define who we are and what is significant in our society at any given time. They are an audible history and help us to understand where we have been and where we are going. On a more basic level, promoting these musical genres is just a whole heckuva lot of fun, so I’m all for it!