A lifetime in the birthplace of the blues: a riches to rags story
A lifetime in the birthplace of the blues, a riches to rags story
Mississippi blues lady Eden Brent is a piano-pounding, juke-joint hollering powerhouse. A celebrated songwriter and dynamic performer, she spent the first two decades of her career under the tutelage of Abie “Boogaloo” Ames, before winning the Blues Foundation’s Blues Challenge and bouncing onto the international scene. Since then she lands steady honors, three Blues Music Awards among them. Her much-anticipated new album Getaway Blues presents nine original blues songs recorded live in London with a four-piece band and will be officially released May 17th, 2024. Laid down in London. Mixed up in Memphis. Made in Mississippi.
Eden was born into a family of riverboat captains and guitar pickers in the river port of Greenville, the largest town in the Mississippi Delta, renowned for its literary history. Eden’s own story could have been written by Eudora Welty or Tennessee Williams or any number of Mississippi’s colorful authors. By the time she was old enough to legally drive a car, she christened the M/V Eden Brent, a working towboat built by her family’s river transportation company. The Greenville Bridge bears the name of her grandfather Capt. Jesse who was dubbed "Riverman of the Century" by the Waterways Journal. Her father Capt. Howard, famous for his Hank Williams renditions and grand story-telling, received the “River Legend Award” by the Seaman’s Church Institute who also named a riverboat training simulator in his honor. Mother Carole was a sharecropper turned fashion model, big band singer and “Miss Ace Records” who landed on the cover of True Detective magazine and worked at Chicago’s famed Chez Paris where she encountered Boogaloo's friend Nat King Cole and members of the Rat Pack. Both of Eden’s parents met Elvis Presley, her father in 1955 and her mother in 1956. The Brent household overflowed with music on reel-to-reel and vinyl, all played on Jerry Lee Lewis's Hi-Fi that was acquired at an IRS auction. Suppertime sparked entertainment hour with regular family sing-a-longs. Author Julia Reed remembers the home as “a soulful and far funnier version of ‘The Sound of Music,’" and refers to the family as the “von Brents.”
Eden’s hometown hosts The Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival, the oldest blues festival in the world, which she attended annually as a youngster. Through the years the festival hosted the greats, from Albert King to Denise LaSalle and from Koko Taylor to Memphis Slim. Locals, who were noted internationally, played the festival annually, people like Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks, T-Model Ford, James “Son” Thomas, and Eugene “Sonny Boy Nelson” Powell. The local VFW presented acts like Bobby Blue Bland while Little Milton Campbell played Nelson Street, and of course there were the annual homecoming visits by B. B. King. Eden was in the right place at the right time, immersed in the Blues at its Mississippi Delta birthplace during this revival.
education & development
Eden studied jazz and was classically trained in piano and voice at the University of North Texas, earning her degree in music theory. She started learning piano at age three and was given her first guitar at age nine. Piano lessons were part of her formal education from elementary school through music college and finally her apprenticeship with Boogaloo Ames. Eden explains:
“My grandmother played piano. She taught me Middle C and the musical alphabet. I had an ear for music and was pecking out simple tunes before I was old enough to go to school, so my parents put me in piano lessons. As a kid I loved performing. Teachers always asked me to lead our class in song after the morning Pledge of Allegiance, and I did talent shows and entertained at retirement homes. I was a natural performer, but I hated practicing until I started working with Boogaloo. He taught me how to really play.”
The pair worked together for nearly twenty years until Boogaloo's death in 2002. Thereafter, Eden began her solo career and along the way worked with folks like Lil’ Bill Wallace (an early contemporary of B.B. King’s), and Eddie Cusic (a member of the Rhythm Aces and Little Milton’s guitar teacher). Eden also worked with guitar sensation Lil' Dave Thompson and harmonica legend Willie Foster and was a member of the Mississippi Delta Blues Revue, a local favorite featuring John Horton, Mississippi Slim, and Mickey Rogers. She eventually established her solo act and became an annual performer at the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival, a festival that inspired her career.
Eden is featured in three documentaries: Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound; Forty Days in the Delta; and 180 Degrees: Changing Lives in the Mississippi Delta; in publications like Living Blues, USA Today and Garden & Gun; on national radio broadcasts including NPR's Weekend Edition and American Routes; and is among Mississippi’s living blues legends in H. C. Porter’s touring exhibit and companion book Blues@Home. Eden's music continues to delight both critics and live audiences alike.
A performer at heart, Eden plays clubs, concerts and festivals like the down-home Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale and the epic New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She travels to faraway events like Blues in Hell, Norway and Sighisoara Blues Festival in Romania. She frequently hosts the Piano Bar aboard the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and is the featured guest at Viking Mississippi River Cruises dock parties, appearances recalling her river roots. She also presents educational programs for all ages.
Eden is a Yellow Dog Records recording artist and there are six solo albums in her catalogue: Something Cool (2003); Mississippi Number One (2008); Ain't Got No Troubles (2010); Jigsaw Heart (2014); An Eden Brent Christmas with Bob Dowell (2018), and Getaway Blues (2024). She boogies on Kern Pratt’s 2019 release Greenville, MS and sings the duet “Southern Honey” with bluesman Johnny Rawls on his 2016 Tiger in a Cage album. In 2012 she recorded Party Dress, an album of songs written by their late mother, Carole Brent, with her sisters, Jessica and Bronwynne, both songwriters.
awards & nominations
Eden is a renowned songwriter, performer and recording artist, and has received numerous awards and nominations. She is a former Mississippi Arts Commission Folk Arts Fellowship recipient, is included in the Mississippi Touring Artist Roster, and was apprentice to Abie “Boogaloo” Ames in a 1994 Folk Arts Apprenticeship. In 2011 she received the Popular Music Award from Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for her album Ain’t Got No Troubles. In addition, she has a dozen nominations in the Living Blues Magazine Awards, and she won the International Blues Challenge in 2006.
Blues Music Awards:
Winner – 2010 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Winner – 2009 Acoustic Artist of the Year
Winner – 2009 Acoustic Album of the Year (Mississippi Number One)
Nominee – 2022 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Nominee – 2015 Acoustic Album of the Year (Jigsaw Heart)
Nominee – 2015 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Nominee – 2012 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Nominee – 2011 Album of the Year (Ain’t Got No Troubles)
Nominee – 2011 Koko Taylor Traditional Female Artist
Nominee – 2011 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Nominee – 2009 Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year
Independent Music Awards:
Winner – 2015 Holiday Song (“Valentine” Jigsaw Heart)
Nominee – 2015 Jazz with Vocals Song
Nominee – 2011 Blues Album
Nominee – 2011 Adult Contemporary Song
Nominee – 2009 Blues Album
Eden lives in her hometown with husband Bob Dowell, a musician, arranger, and producer from London whom she met on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, and their chiweenie, Monty. In addition to blues, she enjoys a rather eclectic collection of music of all genres. She is an easily excitable amateur astronomer who eclipse chases and is expanding her universe as the world gets ever smaller. In her time off she enjoys reading novels, watching documentaries, and cooking.