Greg Brown: The Evening Call
Greg Brown is in no hurry. The 57-year-old singer/songwriter from Iowa has a baritone as rough and chunky as Thanksgiving gravy with the turkey bits still in--and that's just how his words drip out on his new album, The Evening Call. "I had my fun," he drawls on the title track. "My fun had me." He describes fun as a woman with a taste for younger men, so all he can do is admire her hips as she walks away. No need for rushing now--or for fibbing. Just take your time and tell it like you see it.
The second lead voice on the album--Brown's first collection of new songs in four years--is the bluesy slide guitar of his co-producer and longtime running partner Bo Ramsey. Ramsey is in no hurry either, and his patiently unspooling notes reinforce the blues in Brown's descriptions of ex-lovers, empty pockets, and bad fishing. "Skinny Days," he calls them on the disc's best song. "The wedding gown is one more flag that's coming down," he sings of a woman who "put her ring in her underwear drawer while the world tumbled from war to war."
If you're as patient as the singer, however, you'll notice glimmers of optimism shining through. There's still pleasure to be had in eating a "Mighty Sweet Watermelon" or in hearing a "Whippoorwill" sing as sweetly as his lover down in Kansas City. That's Brown's wife, Iris DeMent, and on "Joy Tears" he tells her, "When you start your singing, honey, the heavens open up with grace." Brown's gravelly voice sounds nothing like a whippoorwill, but in its sharp, unhurried observations and disarming melodies is more than a tablespoon of grace.