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)