Don’t let Eden Brent’s diminutive stature or her cherry-pie smile fool you. She is a blues powerhouse capable of pounding out and belting out the boogie-woogie like people just don’t do anymore. Raised up in the blues-saturated wilds off Highway 1 north of Greenville, Mississippi, Brent crafted her particular voice with a mix of formal music training and a 16-year apprenticeship with blues piano legend Boogaloo Ames, who gave her the nickname “Little Boogaloo.” But again, there’s nothing little about Eden Brent.
Brent sings with a whiskey rasp and juke-joint bluster tempered with a jazz singer’s vocal command, steering a song effortlessly through come-ons and throwdowns. It’s like Bessie Smith is trying to sing her way out of a sweet, little country girl. Her piano playing is just as stunning. The first time I saw her was out at Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, Louisiana, one of the last of the original juke joints that once dotted Highway 61. She takes the heritage and patina of the blues as a challenge, seeing how much soul that framework can really hold.
Brent has a full trophy case, with induction in the Greenville Blues Walk in 2004 and the Blues Foundation’s 2006 International Blues Challenge among her accolades. She shared the stage with B.B. King for Obama’s Inauguration, and her 2010 album Ain’t Got No Problems is a treasure chest of New Orleans-style piano shuffle, barrel-house blues and diva- free jazz exegesis, a perfect backwoods jukebox with a sweet Mississippi girl with a wild woman’s voice at the center of it.
Eden Brent plays Chickie Wah Wah April, 14, 2012.