By Kurt Wolff
It was 22 years ago that singer and songwriter Marty Brown released his debut album, High and Dry, on MCA Nashville. A fearless album from a new singer whose sound was more akin to Hank Williams than any of the era’s “hat act” superstars, High and Dry earned rave reviews and sold enough to earn him two additional releases on MCA–then one more for indie label HighTone Records in 1996.
After that, though, Brown seemed to disappear from the music scene. Fans of his honest honky-tonk style were left wondering if he’d simply given up on music.
Last week, the Kentucky native reappeared, seemingly out of nowhere, during an audition for the TV reality show America’s Got Talent. And he blew the audience–and all four judges–away.
Now 47 years old but still sporting a cowboy hat, thick Kentucky accent, and friendly demeanor, Brown performed not one of his (many) originals but a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” a song that’s been covered by, among others, Billy Joel, Adele, and Garth Brooks (watch Marty’s full performance of the song).
According to an interview that aired during his appearance on the show, Brown didn’t know he was even auditioning–his wife set it up and kept it a secret. “I tricked him,” his wife Shellie admitted.
The America’s Got Talent appearance has brought Brown more attention for his music than he’s received in well over a decade.
He reached a whole new set of ears who’d never heard of him; and at the same time, his older fans came out of the woodwork to once again sing his praises. Brown will now move on to the next stage of the talent competition in Las Vegas.
Brown never had a radio hit, though he his three albums for MCA Nashville (1991’s High and Dry, 1993’s Wild Kentucky Skies, and 1994’s Cryin’, Lovin’, Leavin’) were all critically acclaimed at the time and still hold up well today. Listen to songs like “High and Dry,” “Every Now and Then,” “Wild Kentucky Skies,” and “It Must Be the Rain.”
Crying while watching America’s got talent because of Marty Brown’s performance, love is such a beautiful thing
— gina (@ginaalterio) June 10, 2013
Curiously, Brown was also profiled at the time as a rising Nashville artist on the TV program 48 Hours. So the fact he’s re-emerging via national television sort of brings his story full circle.
And though Brown hasn’t had a proper album release since 1996, he also hasn’t been silent. He plays live around his home state of Kentucky, and he’s even recorded four albums worth of music that he and his wife, Shellie Brown, sell independently (more info can be found on his Facebook page).
He’s also posted a series of originals and contemporary cover songs on his YouTube page, including the song “Whatever Makes You Smile,” which he says he wrote as a Valentine’s Day gift to his wife:
With his voice (and spirit) as strong today as ever, here’s hoping that, with this new attention, Marty Brown’s music career gets the jumpstart it deserves.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET on NBC.
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