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After her deal with Arista collapsed, Brown found a home with Malaco, a small but persistent Jackson, Mississippi, label that specialized in modernizing Southern soul and blues with a contemporary urban flair. Brown has remained with Malaco for two decades, and this spring she'll release Shirley Brown: Unleashed. She still believes in her voice and the unpredictable potential of the right song.

Shirley Brown: "Singing in clubs was a bridge in my career, a way to showcase myself."
Shirley Brown: "Singing in clubs was a bridge in my career, a way to showcase myself."

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4th Annual St. Louis Blues Festival
8 p.m. Friday, February 27. Chaifetz Arena, 1 South Compton Avenue. $45 to $52.50. 314-977-5000.

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"I believe that if your record is good enough, it will cross over on its own," she says. "At Arista, Clive Davis wanted me to do a Bette Midler song or something like Barbra Streisand. I could probably sing those kinds of songs, but I didn't feel them."

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