Greg Brown: Hymns to What is Left

Album review
Greg Brown: Hymns to What is Left

Greg Brown

Hymns to What is Left

Label: Sawdust
Media: CD
Genre: Rock/pop

There are three Greg Browns. One is a sunny songwriter who sings about freedom and his grandmother’s canned goods. A second one careens down country roads in the dead of the night in a rusted farm truck, no headlights, a bottle of Wild Turkey between his knees. The third shows up on this 25th anniversary release as a 62-year-old poet looking mortality in the eye as life’s lessons weigh mightily on his mind. Brown is joined on these spare, mostly acoustic arrangements by Bob Black (banjo), Al Murphy (fiddle and mandolin), Dave Moore (button accordion), Bo Ramsey (slide guitar), and daughter Pieta Brown (banjo, piano, harmony vocals), with harmonies by wife Iris Dement and daughter Constie Brown. It’s a front- porch affair, but one that echoes a low levee moan. On the opening track, “Arkansas,” Brown channels Tom Waits with a rumbling baritone on what Brown likens to “a barnyard dance coasting downhill.” The self-deprecating “Fatboy Blues” is a wry nod to aging. On the haunting folk-blues “Besham’s Bokerie,” Brown sings uncharacteristically in a frail falsetto ala Skip James. But it’s the rustic, resolute “Now That I’m My Grandpa” that issues the album’s existential creed: “Life is way less lonely when you’re part of everyone.” 

More Info

  • primary artist, Greg Brown
  • CD

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