Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Advance Warning: Greg Brown


We’re about to get into a couple of amazing summer music months, and what’s probably the first of the golden opportunities this season starts in Philly this Saturday night at World Cafe Live. For non-Philly people, I beg you: see this man if he comes to your town. Philly people: Sat., April 22, 7pm. World Cafe Live. Go.

Greg Brown doesn’t come around often--every few years, at best. But each time is a major event.

Sample downloads:
"The Poet Game" (via The Late Greats)
"You Drive Me Crazy" (via Audiography)

After the jump, a review I wrote in December 2003 of a greatest-hits collection that had recently come out.

Greg Brown
If I Had Known: Essential Recordings, 1980-1996
Red House Records

There's something incongruous about listening to Greg Brown in December. It's not just his lyrics that so deftly call forth the trappings of summer. There's something about his warm, hypnotic baritone that makes you crave iced tea and sunflower seeds. His voice has a kind of darkness to it that brings upbeat songs back down to earth while making the sadder ones downright haunting. When it comes to folk music, to tell the good from the exquisite takes a special kind of closeness and patient attention. This collection, and its accompanying DVD, has worlds of both. Hacklebarney Tunes, the stellar 1993 documentary that comes with the CD, shows countless images of rolling southern Iowa: overgrown berry bushes, rusted-out cars, God's country as far as the eye can see. With fantastic concert footage, interviews (Garrison Keillor makes a few obligatory appearances) and jam sessions, Hacklebarney shows quite precisely where this music comes from, and gives a hint as to why it all sounds so warm and homegrown. On the title track, listen to Brown rumble the words "She was older than me, I guess/ Summer was invented for her to wear that dress," and damn if you don't feel the mosquitoes start to swarm.

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