As poetic as William Blake, as raw as some old blues guy scratching away at a hand-built guitar somewhere in the Delta, Greg Brown easily ranks among the essential songwriters of this era. Certainly a folkie, perhaps the quintessential Iowa troubadour, but also someone whose music reflects a deep understanding of real country, rootsy rock and roll, blues, and even soul, Brown stands almost alone in his ability and willingness to cut to the heart of things without being maudlin, condescending, contrived or any number of other deadly songwriting sins. Yet Brown, as distinctly tied to the Midwestern cultural and physical terrain as Springsteen is to New Jersey, can be blissfully sentimental (paeans to Iowa's tiny towns and his grandma's canned goods), shamelessly romantic, downright rhapsodic about such minutiae as the aroma of coffee and unapologetically nostalgic ("The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home"). He can be a little silly, too. As he's gotten older, he hasn't shied from maturity, especially in his love songs ("Milk of the Moon"), his characters have struggled with more intractable moral dilemmas and his anger over the indignities foisted on the modern world has only reached a sharper pique. Expect Brown to reach deep into his rich catalogue.
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