“I Don’t Know Anybody in This Town,” with its loping country beat and slinky lead guitar line, may be the sexiest song you’ll ever hear about homelessness, the need for human contact, and the U.S. empire in decline. The title track, delivered in Brown’s familiar world- weary vocals, is a folksy baby-boomer anthem that exorcises the ghost of 60s counterculture and provides an antidote to Tea Party hysteria. Daughter Pieta Brown contributes one song (“Remember the Sun”) as does Brown’s wife Iris DeMent (“Let the Mystery Be”). British rock-guitar hero Mark Knopfler lends tasteful licks to “Flat Stuff,” a dark view of the bleaker aspects of the Midwest. Longtime collaborator and guitarist Bo Ramsey produces and provides the rich textural soundscape.
With wry, tender meditations on friends, family, domestic bliss (and not bliss), and the body politic, singer/songwriter Brown plays the road-worn sage. Yet though his songs may ask “What the hell’s wrong here?” his lyrics never succumb to bitterness. Freak Flag has the mark of a great Greg Brown album: it acknowledges that the most intimate parts of our lives aren’t always what they appear while offering a sonic balm for those who feel the world might be spinning off its axis. Grab hold.