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Red House (RHRCD218 )

Dream City, Rexroth's Daughter, Evening Call, Vivid, Whatever It Was, Your Town Now, Lull It By, Joy Tears, Samson, Summer Evening, Blue Car, Living In A Prayer, Mattie Price, Kokomo, Never So Far, Why Don't You Just Go Home?, Lull It By (alternate version), Verona Road, Gallery, Christmas Song (last three are unreleased studio tracks).

During the last twenty five years or so, Greg Brown's rumbling baritone voice has been delivering wry, laconic, sensitive, and humorous left field observations of life, love, loneliness, lasciviousness and whatever he finds in between. Accompanied by his guitar, Bo Ramsey's electric guitar or the odd small combo, Greg Brown captures the down-home, salty rural feel of small town life in America like no one else I know and the songs on this CD will sneak into your subconscious and get you returning to them time and again. Songs like Joy Tears, about the plains farmer wondering where the rain is and where his girl's gone, is delivered with a nervy hollow feel of the kind you'd get if you crossed Twin Peaks with John Wesley Hardin.

In Living In A Prayer, Greg is moodily visiting some dark places - again brooding about some absent woman while Bo Ramsey sets the mood in a slice of simmering, tension-filled guitar work that comes from the place where JJ Cale lives. The former hell-raiser of It's Your Town Now, now ravaged by marital and money matters, regretfully hands over the reigns to the local hotheads with the hope that they'll run as free and wild as he did but knows they can't because this America ain't his America. Blue Car is a lilting love song that revolves around the kind of old banger teenagers are often stuck with - "a good old car but the clutch is a little loose and the brakes are screaming a song called what's-the-use?"  

For me though, the masterwork is Mattie Price where the narrator shares his thoughts on a teenage girl who is almost absent-mindedly driving the local lads crazy with desire. Fascinated and intrigued by the sexual tension, he sees trouble ahead. In a voice that could peel the chrome off a trailer hitch, he whispers "Look at Mattie Price, she's lookin' awful nice, last time I seen her she was ‘bout to my knees, she don't even blink, can't tell what she thinks, flower like that's gonna draw a lotta bees". His advice: Get outta town, get married, any damned thing before - what? (Note from the editor: I see it differently. In my mind it's the narrator that Mattie should really fear and this gives the song an even more chilling edge...)

Greg Brown has a sharp eye for detail and a feel for simple effective melodies and common language. He fills his songs with emotional clout and sounds like no-one else on earth. This compilation is a taster of what he can do. Get this and I guarantee you'll be deciding which of his other CDs to get on Red House.

(We'd recommend Down In There (RHR35), the live album One Night (RHRCD128) and Covenant (RHRCD148) - all available through your pals here at Red Lick)

Review Date: March 2010

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