Greg Brown takes on America

Greg BrownWhen I hear music as soulful, heartfelt and immaculate as Greg Brown’s, I want to find some shimmering and honest way to tell you about it. But finding the right words to get to the gritty truth of performers like Brown requires more poetics than I can muster.

Greg Brown has been making music for more than 25 years and has 24 albums to his credit. Mostly, he’s written and performed his own material, gaining a reputation as a skilled and powerful songwriter.

Now he brings us “Honey in the Lion’s Head,” a collection of songs of the hills and woods of America. Like Dave Alvin’s Grammy-winning “Public Domain” — an inevitable comparison, especially when Brown opens with an even earthier “Railroad Bill” — “Lion’s Head” takes the songs of the land and transfuses them both with an updated esthetic and he’s own unique style.

Like Alvin, Brown’s throaty baritone gives the selections an authenticity that none of the ’60s folksies could achieve with their perfect harmonies and precious arrangements. Brown isn’t trying to make a commercial document to revitalize a genre. He is paying tribute by paying close attention to the original intent of the songs.

Fans of Alvin and Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series will love “Lion’s Head.”

And that’s as close as I can come to conveying the imperative message: Buy this CD.

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