Greg Brown : Freak Flag (Video)

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Nebraska and Iowa which starts tomorrow morning I am posting this video of (one of my) favorite tracks from Greg Brown’s last studio album to date ‘Freak Flag’. Needless to say perhaps that I like it a lot, and I’ve been meaning to write a review and post it on here, but I didn’t have the time to finish it. This video shows Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey in fine form, and I am happy to be able to say that I plan to go and see their show in Ames on the 27th if everything is going according to plan. Should be excellent.

 

 

Townes Van Zandt : Waitin’ Around To Die

I was looking for something completely different over on YouTube when I found this. Always time for a good version of one of  Townes’ great songs. I really have to watch Heartworn Highways again soon.

Slaid Cleaves : Rust Belt Fields

Ever the songwriter for thoughtful songs about people who possibly don’t quite get what they deserve, but try hard one way or the other nevertheless, Slaid Cleaves has written yet another of his beautiful, melancholic songs.

It also shows that , even in 2011 (or 2013 for that matter), you don’t need anything else than an acoustic guitar if your songs are good.

Old Crow Medicine Show : Half Mile Down

In preparation for the review of  Carry Me Back I am currently working on, here’s one of the many excellent songs from that album.  The review will follow in the next few days.

I can also very much recommend the very good Old Crow Medicine Show entry on Wikipedia – filling in a lot of holes in their background for me with many fascinating stories. A lot of my favorite artists are mentioned on there too, such as Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch (&Dave Rawlings) and Woody Guthrie to name only a few. I love the chapter about the early history of the band best, especially the one about the busking and hoboing experiences. So good to know that people are doing things like that nowadays, I have to admit that I would never have the nerve to even try hoboing. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Crow_Medicine_Show

 

Bo Ramsey : Fragile

Bo Ramsey Fragile Cover

Bo Ramsey : Fragile
(2008, Bo Ramsey Records)

I wasn’t familiar with Bo Ramsey’s work until seeing him play alongside a Greg Brown on a couple of spirited living room renditions of tracks like Pretty Boy Floyd (and a few live tracks) in Hacklebarney Tunes The Music of Greg Brown – the documentary film about Greg Brown (part of If I had Known, see my review here: …..). Those performances made me decide that he’s my kind of guy and presumably an outstanding guitar player, which it quickly turned out he is, after listening to Fragile, the first of his CD’s I bought (although it most probably won’t be the last). Starting with the atmospheric, dust-colored artwork with a barbed-wire fence as the front cover image – a perfect pointer to what’s on store on the album. Calling the sound ‘dusty’ would by no means be misleading, although a few tracks, mainly the more uptempo Folk-Rock tunes such as Fragile, Same For You and I Wonder actually do sound quite airy too (all three of them remind me very pleasantly of Canadian band The Skydiggers). These 3 tracks are not the norm though, as most tracks on Fragile are firmly on the moody and slightly dark side musically, with From Buffalo To Jericho the most pessimistic-sounding track of the album (it’s excellent too though).

The album is produced exceptionally well (always a plus in my opinion as you will know if you have read any of my reviews before), with a muscular, yet reduced sound, with Ramsey shining repeatedly on a number of different guitars (he seems to have played all of them). His lead guitar tunes actually sound like much more than merely the musical accompaniment to these songs, they almost seem to act as another voice – listen to album opener Can’t Sleep and you hopefully know what I mean. It’s one of the best songs on here – full of moody guitar on a bed of restrained drums and bass guitar with his trademark half-whispered, smoky voice. Pretty much the same could actually be said about the equally brilliant Dreamland too. Tell Me Now and Burn It Down (whose lyrics are a bitter indictment of today’s music download culture) are quite bluesy in sound and feel with the latter maybe being a tad too much of that for me.

Same For You is another strong contender for being the best composition on here in my opinion. I love the feathery acoustic guitar/bass/drums-backing, the upbeat tune and lyrics telling a tale of comradeship. Fragile features some fine organ and is possibly the most rocking song on the album. I am also very fond of the two short instrumental songs Away and Into The Woods, especially the latter is lovely – sounding like a musical meditation in the woods of the title, one can’t help (well I couldn’t) becoming calm and picturing his favorite forest for all of the short 2 and a half minutes it lasts.

The lyrics to album closer I Don’t Know display self-doubt as well as doubts about the world, but in the end he’s finding the strength for the way forward – ‘I don’t know, but I’ll keep on looking’.

His wife, Greg Brown-daughter Pieta Brown, herself an accomplished songwriter, wrote half of the songs together with him on here, and is playing the piano on a number of songs. The other musicians on here are playing very well too, although Ramsey’s guitar is definitely the all-dominant instrument on the album – the sound is homogenous and makes Fragile a well-rounded, taut and utterly convincing album that found its way into me heart quickly and will undoubtedly stay in there for a long time to come.