Category: Press

REVIEW – Donny Brown of the Verve Pipe – Hess Street EP (Something Else Reviews)

As founding member and drummer of the Verve Pipe, Donny Brown certainly sports an admirable pedigree. His accomplishments have continued in the form of a solo career, and here on his freshman offering, Hess Street EP, the Michigan musician’s creativity reaches some pretty lofty heights.

Ruled by Donny’s plush and polished vocals that soar, sway and sparkle with color and elegance, the five track disc is further amplified by tight and enterprising rhythms. Stirring choruses and arresting hooks also pierce Donny Brown’s sharply-creased songs. Strains of the Beach Boys, Badfinger and Billy Joel may arise now and again throughout Hess Street EP, but bold blasts of originality never fail to prevail.

Propelled by an innocent bounce and wave after wave of melodious movements, “Lucky Number” gets Hess Street EP off to a perfectly poptastic start, and “The Night I Fell For You” gushes with the kind of emotional power and pristine shine heard on classic ballads. A strummy folk guitar, aided by clawing breaks circles the environment on “The Driving Song,” and the toe-tapping vaudeville shuffle of “Call Me” (complete with the underwater sound of a megaphone) is so authentic that images of dancing flappers, Speakeasies, and bootleg liquor are bound to appear before your eyes.

Taking its title from the name of the street the Verve Pipe’s Donny Brown grew up on, Hess Street EP reins right in as a striking debut recording. Clearly frothing with ideas, Donny wasted little time putting together his next disc, Donny Brown, which has recently been released and is an ideal companion to its predecessor.

Read the full article HERE.

REVIEW – EP Review: Donny Brown – S/T (Power of Pop)

DonnyBrown_PowerOfPopNot a day goes by without me pining for the days of the 90s pop underground movement. It was a retro-delicious time (to steal a phrase from Robyn Hitchcock), where bands developed the influences of the 60s (The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and The Who) & the 70s (power pop, glam, pop-rock and rock ’n’ roll) into a heady melodic yet erudite melange.

So it was refreshing to come across Donny Brown’s eponymous EP, released in late 2015. Brown is perhaps best known as the drummer for successful alt-rock band Verve Pipe but on this, his 2nd solo effort, he proves that he has the chops (and more) to stand out on his own.

The six tracks here are lovingly crafted – from the memorable tunes to the old school pop-rock instrumentation/arrangements – and Brown casts his net wide to include many diverse inspirations from that special epoch of the 60s/70s.

Opening song “14 Days” is chock full of hooks, though presented in a subtle manner – a rather laid back introduction to the EP. It all kicks off in earnest really with the jaunty folky “Now You Can Break My Heart” with a McCartney-esque chorus as a wondrous topping. “Life Of A Stranger” is a little more sophisticated, a mid tempo number that explores self and identity.

The absolute highlight? The Jeff Lynne-channeling “Just A Friend”, complete with George Harrison styled slide guitar solo – at parts, it recalls that Bryan Adams LP that Lynne produced.

The closing “Reach Out” is a pleasing jazzy song where Brown experiments a little with his vocal range.

Lacking a bit of the ‘power’ end of power pop, but with enough pop savvy to keep the fans of 90s pop underground sufficiently happy, Donny Brown should be lauded for presenting authentic sounding music that remains true to the principles of the best 60s/70s pop-rock.

Read the original review HERE.

REVIEW – Donny Brown of the Verve Pipe – Donny Brown (Something Else Reviews)

Solo outings by members of successful bands rarely meet the expectations of the public. But there are isolated instances where such recordings do not disappoint.

Enter Donny Brown, whose role in the Verve Pipe certainly requires no explanation. In 2014, the gifted Michigan, Lansing based singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist released his first solo effort, Hess Street, an EP that satisfied Verve Pipe fans to the core.

Donny’s follow-up EP, 2015’s Donny Brown, maintains the mood and essence of his debut disc, while still having the smarts to stretch his vision and vocabulary. Shimmering with standard popisms, Donny’s vocals are clear and precise, which are stunningly compatible with his potent melodies and jeweled arrangements.

Robed in ringing guitars and sun-bleached hooks, “Now You Can Break My Heart” flickers with clingy pop gestures each breath and note of the way, flashes of psychedelic foliage emerge on the slinky sitar-studded “14 Days,” and the melancholic Badfinger-styled impressions of “Just A Friend” weave together heart-stopping piano work with bluesy six-string samplings in dazzling harmony.

Every cut on Donny Brown is executed in a sincere and sure-footed manner. Both the sound and production of the record is clean and crisp, lending the songs a glow that lifts the spirits and calls for never-ending listens.

Those enamored of folks like Crowded House, Matthew Sweet and of course the Verve Pipe, are strongly urged to add this great record to their collections. A real triumph from an artist whose intuition and instincts are thoroughly developed, Donny Brown bottles all that is good and noble about genuine pop music.

Read the original article HERE.

REVIEW – Donny Brown “Donny Brown” EP (Power Popaholic)

Last year Donny’s talent floored me on his debut EP Hess Street, as his romantic ballads were great examples of songwriting. On his self-titled follow up, the asian strings of “14 Days” keep the pleasant melody from getting dull and “Now You Can Break My Heart” is another good mid-tempo sing along melody.

Then the standouts “Life of A Stranger” and “Just A Friend” take this EP above and beyond the average. The latter is a brilliant ballad about how a friendly kiss only lit sparks for the receiver and not the giver. Catch the slide guitar break midway through this instant classic. “Losing A Part of Your Soul” is another gem with its catchy chorus. “Reach Out” is a lightweight ending here, but this is still a very highly recommended EP.

Read the original review HERE.

REVIEW – Donny Brown “Hess Street” EP (Power Popaholic)

Former drummer of The Verve Pipe delivers a fantastic EP that touches on the full variety of his melodic talents. Donny’s influences are closer to Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and he reminds me of Glen Philips (Toad The Wet Sprocket) in spots.

“Lucky Number” starts out slow and pans out to a rich harmonius chorus. The “Driving Song” is a pleasant easy going highway drive. But the best songs are the magical “Bitter Rival,” like a lost Andrew Gold classic, and “The Night I Fell For You,” one of the most romantic melodies I’ve ever heard. “Call Me” is a faux 1920’s bit of flapper pop that ends things on a light jazzy note. This one sneaks up on you and is one of the best EPs I’ve heard this year.

Read the original review HERE.

Former Verve Pipe drummer has his own sound (Lansing State Journal)

By Anne Erickson, (Lansing State Journal) – ORIGINAL ARTICLE

When Donny Brown went to record his debut solo release, one decision came easy: the album’s title.

That moniker, the “Hess Street E.P.,” has a special meaning.

“I grew up in a musical household in a house on Hess Street on the eastside of Saginaw,” Brown, one of the founding members of the Verve Pipe, told the LSJ. “It’s the house that’s on the cover of the CD: 1619 Hess Street. I come from a family of seven kids, and I’m number six of seven.

“My older brothers both had bands, and our house was always the designated practice space.”

His parents didn’t mind the racket and would let the downstairs rocking out go late.

“They were the absolute best. My friends knew it, too, and so did my siblings’ friends,” Brown said. “Because my brothers were rehearsing in our basement or garage, there was always a drumset set up that I could go rock out on.

“Music, playing music, listening to music and loving music, was such an integral part of my family life growing up, I can’t help but carry that with me everywhere I go.

“That’s why the record is the Hess Street E.P.”

Listening to the album, you can hear Brown’s influences: the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Elliot Smith. The music jumps from power-pop anthems to rich ballads to Dixieland-flavored songs. There’s lots of variety, which is a great thing.

For Brown, making the record was a familiar journey. He rose to rock star status in the ’90s, when the Verve Pipe ruled alternative radio with organic, introspective tunes “The Freshmen,” “Photograph” and “Cup of Tea.”

Now, Brown is stepping out on his own. He’ll play songs off the “Hess Street E.P.” Saturday at the Grand Ledge Performing Arts Center, plus new versions of Verve Pipe classics.

While Brown played drums for the Verve Pipe, the show will see him performing up front, with guitar in-hand, with a backing band, the Van Dell-Tones.

The album, Brown said, was a total Michigan effort.

“First, let me say that I could not have made this record without my four main recording friends: Andy Reed at Reed recording in Bay City, Ryan Wert at Lansing Recording, Glenn Brown at Glenn Brown Productions and Geoff Michael at Big Sky in Ann Arbor,” said the Lansing musician.

He mixed with Brown and Michael, mastered with Reed and edited with West. It all took place between his session work at the studios, so pretty much whenever his drums were set up for another gig, he recorded.

Other Michigan players included guest musicians Jake Greenwood, Ricky Nalett, Ray Kamalay and Dan Stechow, to name some.

“Friends would come by the house, and I’d play them the song, and they’d want to rock it out, so the record is full of appearances of people who just happened to pop in,” he said.

Writing a solo album was different than doing band work.

“This was one of the true joys of the process,” Brown said. “Previously, I would write and then try to fit the song into a ‘sound,’ shape it into something that would work or sound ‘right’ next to a set of previously released music and make it something that the band would be comfortable with. If I didn’t do this, I found that songs could be dismissed pretty quickly.

“So to not have that as part of the process and be able to let the sound and song go where I thought it wanted to was very fulfilling. Because of this, I think the record sounds like me.”

How to buy it

To purchase the “Hess Street E.P.,” visit The album is also available digitally via iTunes and Amazon.

About the show

Former Verve Pipe drummer Donny Brown performs. Also appearing: the Van Dell-Tones, Andy Reed, Chris Zehnder, Jake Bartlett, Scott Van Dell and Jake Greenwood.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 14

Where: Grand Ledge Performing Arts Center, 820 Spring St. (inside Grand Ledge High School)

Tickets: $10 in advance via $15 on day of show.

Donny Brown: From “Verve Pipe” To Solo Star (WLNS TV – VIDEO)

(WLNS) – There will be plenty of music this Saturday in Grand Ledge. I caught up with a local musician who’s ready to help set the mood this Valentine’s Day.

He has a very familiar name but you may not recognize his new sound.

But Donny Brown’s story begins in Saginaw, Michigan where he was born and raised in a house full of children and music.

“When we did dishes we sang. If you were the dryer, you sang the harmonies and guitar solos.”

And now he’s flying solo in the music business After separating from the successful band The Verve Pipe, which he helped create back in the 90’s, around the time he attended MSU’s School of Music.

The band’s hit song “Freshman” was everywhere.

But you’d never consider this seasoned musician a “freshman” playing drums, his vocal chords and now strumming deeper into his guitar.

Since his split from the Verve Pipe in late 2013 Donny’s played one only gig on his own.

This Saturday in Grand Ledge, will be his second.

And he’ll have help from some local talent who call themselves “the Van Dell-Tones”

I asked Donny if Valentine’s Day will be a theme Saturday. “I’ve been known to write a love song or two,” Brown answered. “And we want to spread the love. I’m going to play a few extra love songs in the show too.”

One of those songs is called “The Night I Fell For You” from his new album.

And it’s a song I’ve fallen for since getting the opportunity to sing it with him….

And Donny hopes you’ll fall in love with some to the music this weekend, as well.

Again, the concert is this Saturday at the “Grand Ledge Performing Arts Center” which is inside the high school. Tickets are $10.50 for adults and $5.50 for students.


Stepping out Former Verve Pipe drummer releases his first solo EP

Stepping out

Former Verve Pipe drummer releases his first solo EP

by Ty Forquer (City Pulse) – ORIGINAL ARTICLE

“That drum fill, man, it’s just fuckin’ right.” 

I’m sitting at the bar with Donny Brown, and Zakk Wylde and friends are ripping through a cover of “Mississippi Queen” on the TV behind us. Brown knows a few things about drums; the 52-year-old west Lansing resident spent 21 years behind the kit for the Verve Pipe.

A founding member of the group, Brown experienced firsthand the fickleness of the music industry. The band scored a huge hit with its first major label release, 1996’s “Villains,” driven largely by the success of the hit single “The Freshmen.”

Subsequent albums, however, never reached the same level of success, and the Verve Pipe was pushed to the fringes of pop relevance. Brown left the band in 2013 to pursue other opportunities.

Saturday, one of those opportunities will take center stage as Brown celebrates his first solo release, “Hess Street E.P.,” with a concert at the Grand Ledge Performing Arts Center.

“I’ve had these songs in the works for quite a while,” he says.

The EP features Brown front-and-center as singer and guitarist. (He also recorded most of his own drum tracks, of course.) While Brown has been working on these songs for years, this EP may not have seen the light of day without some friendly peer pressure.

Brown says he performed at a singer/songwriter even in Bay City in July.

“After the show, a friend of mine said, ‘We’re giving you a deadline and you have to release some music.’” That friend, fellow Saginaw native J.J. Bamberger, booked a November gig for Brown at the Dow Event Center’s Red Room in Saginaw. He told Brown that he needed to have his release completed for the gig.

“I was bullied into making the EP,” Brown says with a laugh.

While the songwriting is the heart of this EP, the release’s production really makes the songs shine. Brown enlisted the help of several veterans of the Michigan music scene to fill out the sonic spectrum.

Longtime friend and musical collaborator Andy Reed (formerly of the Verve Pipe and Jedi Mind Trip) plays bass on the EP, and Jake Greenwood of Vandalay adds keyboards to the mix. Even Lansing recording guru Glenn Brown gets in on the act, playing ukulele on the EP’s closing track.

“The fact that I have all these people I respect and admire musically playing on this record, that is the best reason for making the record,” Brown says.

The record also features a very special cameo by Brown’s drum teacher, the late Bob “Bubba” Grudner. Lansing residents may remember Grudner as the drummer for the Zen Ponies, Acme Jam Co., or the Blue Avenue Delegates. He also recorded and toured with Mark Farner of Grand Funk

Railroad and recorded two albums with Dolly Parton.

Grudner, who died of lung cancer in 2004, recorded the drum tracks for Brown’s “Call Me.” Grudner’s faux-tapdancing woodblock part drives the Tin Pan Alley-influenced number.

“I played him the track and asked him if he wanted to play on it,” says Brown. “He brought his oxygen tank with him to the studio and recorded the drum part.”

Through the EP and through conversation, it becomes clear that Brown is engaged with the present, but always deeply aware of the past and those who came before him. The title of the EP alludes to a street on the east side of Saginaw, the cover photo is of the house on that street that he grew up in.

“That house — that part of Saginaw, really — has gotten a real ass-kicking,” Brown says. “People have broken in and stripped all the pipes and wiring for scrap. It’s a real mess.”

Despite its current state, the house still brings back happy memories for Brown. “My parents were the cool parents,” he says. “My brothers played in rock bands, they let them practice all night in our basement.”

Brown credits his parents with laying the foundation for his musical exploits.

“There was always music on in the house,” he remembers. “My parents instilled a love of music in me.”

Though the album was completed in November, Saturday’s performance will be the first chance to hear these songs live in the greater Lansing area. For Brown, the opportunity to perform live is a special opportunity.

“The process (of recording) was so fulfilling,” he says. “To do the live show takes it to another level.”

Concert-goers can expect to hear the songs from the EP, as well as reworked versions of Verve Pipe songs.

Brown may even sprinkle in a few new songs.

“I’m already getting songs ready for another EP,” he says.

Local singer/songwriter Abbey Hoffman will open Saturday’s show. Hoffman sings with the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, and recently released her own solo album, “This Too Shall Pass.” Hoffman recorded her album with Ryan Wert at Elm Street Studios in REO Town.

“I learned about Abbey through Ryan,” Brown says. “I just love her voice.”

Hoffman will also join Brown’s band as a back-up singer later in the evening.

While Brown has toured the world and experienced all the trappings of success with the Verve Pipe, he still remembers the humbling gigs that came before the success. One particular gig stands out in his memory.

“(The Verve Pipe) was going to open for a band called the Dopes at Rubble’s in Mt. Pleasant,” he says. “They wouldn’t move any of their gear off of the stage, and they wouldn’t let me use their drums.”

The band mostly fit on the tiny stage, but Brown had to get creative.

“I set up my drums off-stage in front of the kitchen door,” he says with a laugh.

The drummer for the Dopes, the one who wouldn’t let Brown use his gear, was none other than Doug Corella, who would later join the Verve Pipe as keyboardist/percussionist.

Through the highs and the lows of success, simply being able to make music has always been the driving force in Brown’s life.

“It’s not the fantastic living or chance of fame that motivates me, it’s the process of making music that is so fulfilling,” he says. “The rest is just frosting.”

Donny Brown Album Release Concert

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 $10 advance/$5 students/$15 at the door Grand Ledge Performing Arts Center 820 Spring St., Grand Ledge

“Hess Street EP” named Top 10 EP of 2014 by Pop That Goes Crunch!

Top_10_EPs_Of_2014___Pop_That_Goes_Crunch_02The folks at “Pop That Goes Crunch” named Donny Brown’s “Hess Street E.P.” as one of the top 10 EPs of 2014. Read more HERE.