Chastity Brown
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Chastity Brown


Band Alternative Folk


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"Choir-raised Chastity Brown takes it higher"

25 July 2007

While Bele Chere is in full effect, locals are faced with a conundrum that is uniquely Asheville: whether to enter the horde, wandering through the city streets among the shirtless masses, or to strike out and seek entertainment from acts other than Bele Chere’s typical parade of has-beens and never-weres.

Enter Chastity Brown.

Born just outside of Memphis and now residing in Minneapolis, Brown combines the best parts of her two hometowns’ musical legacies—the soulful gospel of Graceland-ville and the grittier roots of the place that produced Prince.

“I draw from it all,” says Brown. She says she never really realized what she sounded like “until people told me that I sound like other artists. I mostly just try to do what I feel, and that’s how it turns out.”

What people hear is Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Tracy Chapman—a potent blend of folk and contemporary soul. While Brown admit comparisons to other artists are inevitable, she is wary of being pigeonholed.

“I would like to think I’m doing something new, something that’s fresh.”

Built around Brown’s voice, which can swiftly rise from a mellow croon to a powerful wail, her band The Sound—including percussionist Michael X. Johnson and bassist Don Strong—helps her secure that advantage. These songs are too intimate to be dance numbers, but with enough backbeat to make audiences at least sit up and take note.

“What they can do as a unit is so bad-assed that I want to keep that as the core,” she says. “I could play with a bigger group”—and she has—“but I prefer to start smaller.”

Brown states she “wants to resonate with the people around me.” This seemingly modest goal seems to have risen from her church background. Her life story reads much like the stories of other soul singers: the struggle to find oneself in the world, the struggle to find the balance between the rural and the urban, the struggle between the strength of her spiritual side and the weakness of the flesh. A brief flirtation with being a music minister after high school started Brown down the road to writing her own songs and becoming a musician, even though performing live is relatively new to her.

“I’ve been playing since I was a kid, but I’ve [only] been playing live for five years … in the beginning I never thought about sharing my songs with anyone,” she says.

Now she does—and the result is her newest CD, Do the Best You Can, which chronicles Brown’s journey in reconciling the church and her state of being. The music, according to Brown, is the key.

“[It’s] always a very sacred time,” she says, “It’s still a devotion. I’m not trying to separate my two worlds anymore.” And so while some Bele Chere headliners play on their laurels for a fee, across town a rising talent gives it up gratis. - Asheville Mountain Express

"Roots-soul singer of the first order"

"A Minneapolis-by-way-of-Knoxville roots-soul singer of the first order, Chastity Brown possesses the sort of rare chilled-out star quality that goes beyond time and place. "

--Jim Walsh, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 18, 2007
- Minneapolis Star Tribune


debut CD of Chastity Brown & The Sound,
released July, 2007, Chanhassen Melody DSP



With her nose ring and her loose dreads sprouting every which way in a free-fro, Minneapolis singer-songwriter Chastity Brown, 25, looks like an urban Rastafarian, a Marley-loving Bohemian. When she opens her mouth in song, however, she reveals a complex soul � a country-born, gospel-raised, activist poet who sings about women, race, love and politics with an edgy tenderness.

"I suffer for my race," she wails in her song, "Woman Gotta Move." "I suffer for my skin. / Is it not enough to suffer / For the woman that I am? / Still she's beautiful / But half divided�."

Born and raised in Union City, Tenn., a small town two hours north of Memphis, Chastity found an outlet for her considerable musical abilities in her church. She picked up the saxophone in sixth grade and played on a praise and worship team. While her strict Pentecostal church frowned on "secular" music (a mentor warned her against Bob Marley, whose music she thought "gorgeous," because "people viewed him as a god"), she absorbed the gospel music of the Wynans, Gary Oliver and Stephen Curtis Chapman and occasionally sneaked Fats Domino, BB King and Jewel.

She wrote her first song ("It was kind of a prayer," she says) at age 15. By the time she graduated from high school, she knew what she wanted to be: a music minister. "I was really attracted to the experience of music, to the involvement and power that music had," she says. Her dream changed after the small religious school she attended in Baltimore, Md., expelled her for breaking a rule against dating. She moved to Knoxville, took a few community college classes and began performing her growing repertoire in public.

"My heart was in free-fall," she says, "and the only way to get it out, to process it, was writing music." In Knoxville, she abandoned many of the strict rules she had thought essential to religious devotion. "My whole world opened up musically," she says. She soaked up Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Lauryn Hill, all of whom she counts as significant influences on her music. She also discovered "the power of me just being myself."

In September 2005, Chastity moved with a friend to Minneapolis, where she now lives and performs with "The Sound," a world beat / acoustic groove ensemble featuring Don Strong on bass and Michael X. Johnson on drums. To conjure up Chastity Brown�s unique style, think Van Morrison (especially his "Astral Weeks" album) jamming with Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, throw in a little Lauryn Hill and Joni Mitchell, under girded with a driving funk-gospel blues, and you'll start to get the vibe.

Her lyrics are both personal, infused with a deeply rooted spirituality, and political, ethically hard hitting. In "Four Chords," she bemoans the isolation of the individual in contemporary America:

"To shut myself in, to shut myself down, to shut myself out / Like a blind man trying to find his way around in a city he's never been to / Never even wanted to step foot there anyway."

Many of her songs reflect the marriage of sacred and secular made possible after her break with her childhood church. "Music was always a very sacred time," she says. "It's still a devotion. I'm not trying to separate my two worlds anymore." Perhaps most notably, Chastity sings about women, about her identity as a woman. "I believe in women," she says. "I believe that a woman can do whatever." She rolls a cigarette. "Don't think I can't just because I'm a woman."

"A Minneapolis-by-way-of-Knoxville roots-soul singer of the first order, Chastity Brown possesses the sort of rare chilled-out star quality that goes beyond time and place. --Jim Walsh, Star Tribune, March 18, 2007