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Greg Brown – Honey in the Lion’s Head

I’ve never met Greg Brown (though I did get to see my mom, all five feet and seventy-something years of her, run up to him to shake his hand after a show)…but if by chance he was to invite me over to his place for some whiskey and music, I’d imagine it’d be something like Honey in the Lion’s Head.

This latest Brown release is a collection of traditional folk tunes that were, as Greg puts it, “the soundtrack of his youth”. These songs, delivered in Brown’s trademark gravelly baritone, have a nice old-timey feel. This is why I mentioned dinner at Greg and Iris’ (He’s married to folk singer Iris DeMent. You knew that, right?) place. I can easily imagine sitting out on the back porch as Greg picks up the guitar. His daughters Pieta and Constie would be there for the occasional background harmony. A good time was had by all.

Seriously though, since this will probably never happen, I’ll have to remain content with the record. I’ll close my eyes and imagine the scene as Greg plays these songs with longtime cohort Bo Ramsey. The addition of Bob Black on banjo and Al Murphy on fiddle make the traditional folks aspects of the tunes really stand out. Just one listen to “Old Smokey” or “The Foggy Foggy Dew” will give you a pretty good idea of Greg’s background. This isn’t to say that everything is laid back and contemplatin’. No, just check out his uptempo and intense “Samson”.

There are a couple of non-traditional songs here too. One is Jim Garland’s “I Don’t Want Your Millions Mister”, a country swingin’ working man’s lament. The other is the Brown original “Ain’t No One Like You”. Dang, love sounds pretty when it’s dressed up with Greg’s voice, a banjo and Constie Brown’s backing vocals.

When this record finishes, I open my eyes and well…I’m still sitting in suburban America. I guess there are some limits to how far music can transport me.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

About Mark Saleski

  • David

    Greg Brown’s got the Voice (Tom Waits as a hick), but I don’t get why so many people (eg that Prairie Home Companion guy) think he’s a good songwriter. This sounds like it might be a good choice.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    if you want an example of why he’s a good songwriter, you should get yourself a copy of The Poet Game.

  • mt

    Here are just a few songs from one of his many albums. Hear these words with his melodies and voice and his gifts are hard to deny:

    Our Little Town

    Now the railroad came generations ago
    And the town grew up as the crops did grow
    The crops grew well and the town did too
    They say it’s dyin now and there ain’t a thing we can do
    I don’t have to read the news
    Or hear it on the radio
    I see it in the faces of everyone I know
    The cost goes up
    What we made comes down
    What’s gonna happen to our little town

    The summer is full of thunder
    The kids run and play
    Momma got a new wrinkle
    Poppa ain’t got much to say
    Rust grows along the railroad track
    The young folks leave
    They don’t come back
    And I don’t have to read the news
    Or hear it on the radio
    I see it in the faces of everyone I know
    The boards go up
    The signs come down
    What’s gonna happen to our little town

    Tom lost his farm
    And we lost Tom
    He left in the night
    I don’t know where he’s gone
    What he’d lost
    He just couldn’t face
    What we’re losin’ can’t be replaced
    I don’t have to read the news
    Or hear it on the radio
    I see it in the faces of everyone I know
    The reason we’re here
    Is the farms around
    So what’s gonna happen to our little town

    We’ve seen hard times
    Many times before
    Maybe this whole thing is just one more
    It never was perfect
    Maybe no one’s to blame
    To see it die like this
    It’s a god damned shame
    And I don’t have to read the news
    Or hear it on the radio
    I see it in the faces of everyone I know
    The sun comes up
    The sun goes down
    But what’s gonna happen to our little town

    Wash My Eyes

    Wash my eyes that I may see
    Yellow return to the willow tree
    Open my ears that I may hear
    The river running swift and clear
    And please
    Wash my eyes
    And please
    Open my ears

    Wash this world that is one place
    And wears a mad and fearful face
    Let the cruel raging cease
    Let these children sleep in peace
    And please
    Wash this world
    And please
    Let these children
    Sleep in peace

  • godoggo

    I’m “David” above. Well, I still haven’t heard many of his songs, but I have listed to this album a few dozen times. It’s fantastic. Don’t know what else to say.