Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Greg Brown performing "Driftless"
Slant 6 Mind, Greg Brown with Bo Ramsey, Red House Records, 1997
Revised December 19, 2008
The first two paragraphs have been used in other reviews of folk musician/singer/songwriter Greg Brown’s work.
Greg Brown is a particular kind of folk singer who before I listened to his “Greg Brown-The Live One ” album reviewed elsewhere in this space I had not really paid attention to since the days of my early youth when I listened intently to Woody Guthrie whose songs were seemingly forged from the very heart of Americana. As a child of the urban folk revival of the 1960’s I got caught up in listening to the more political message songs provided by the likes of Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs. As a poet/singer/songwriter Greg has come out of the heartland of America, like Woody, in a fury to write and sing his tales of love, remembrance, tragedy, desperation and, on occasion, just pure whimsy. He is thus in very good company, and belongs there.
His songs evoke, under more modern conditions to be sure, the days gone by when the community spirit of small town life meant something. A strong bass voice grainy with the trials and tribulations of life lend authenticity to his words, as does strong guitar playing when necessary. Needless to say the variety of topics covered in his songs speak for themselves from Grandma's food cellars to vanishing Iowa family farms to sweaty nights of lovemaking entwined with the up and down battles of love and, of course, the ubiquitous bouts of fishing that gain more than a nod in his albums.
Outstanding here are the song for his father, the evocative “Billy From The Hills”, Dusty Woods”, and “Hurt So Nice”. As always Greg is on top when singing about the seamy side of life, love and the mysteries of human existence out in the heartland.
"Brand New '64 Dodge"
Money comes out of Dad's billfold.
Hankies come out of Mom's purse.
The engine hardly makes a sound
even when you put it in reverse.
It's got a push-button transmission,hardtop convertible, 4-door.
It's November of '63
and the brand new Dodge is a '64.
And we're rolling slow down Main Street -
the asphalt and gravel crunch.
Church is finally over
and we're going to have our Sunday lunch.
And then I will play football
with my buddies down in park.
Later I'll dream about my girlfriend
as I lie alone in the dark.
She's got short red hair and blue eyes
and her swimsuit's also blue
and her little brother is retarded,
but Jesus loves him, too.
And Jesus loves our president,
even though he is a Catholic.
There's a lot for a boy to think about
as he walks along the railroad tracks.
And my sister won't get carsick
'cause we're going only half a mile
and the car still has that new car smell
and dad looks like he might smile
and the world is big and full of Autumn
and I'm hungry as can be
and we're in our brand new '64 Dodge
November of '63
Here come the artists with their intense faces,
with their need for money and quiet spaces.
They leave New York, they leave L.A..
Here they are - who knows how long they'll stay -
It's a Boomtown
got another Boomtown
and it'll boom
just as long as boom has room.
Here come the tourists with their blank stares,
with their fanny packs - they are penny millionaires.
Something interesting happened here long time ago.
Now where people used to live their lives the restless
come and go.
Nice to meet you, nice to see you
in a sheepskin coat made in Korea.
Welcome to the new age, the new century.
Welcome to a town with no real reason to be.
The rich build sensitive houses and pass their staff around.
For the rest of us, it's trailers on the outskirts of town.
We carry them their coffee, wash their shiny cars,
hear all about how lucky we are
to be living in a ...
The guy from California moves in and relaxes.
The natives have to move - they cannot pay the taxes.
Santa Fe has had it. Sedona has, too.
Maybe you'll be lucky - maybe your town will be the new...