Larry Brown (1951-2004) was "A Great American Author," as the subtitle to this tribute album states, and he was also a writer particularly interested in music who, in addition to five novels and other publications, occasionally penned music journalism for No Depression magazine. He championed singer/songwriters in the Southern Townes Van Zandt/Guy Clark tradition, such as Robert Earl Keen, who returns the favor here by contributing "Counting on You," one of 11 previously unreleased songs on the disc. Brown gets name-checked in such tracks as Cary Hudson's "Song in C" and fellow novelist Madison Smartt Bell's "Going Down with Larry Brown," and his fiction is evoked specifically in Caroline Herring's "Song for Fay," based on his novel Fay, but more often than not the performers in their original songs are trying to evoke the mood of the writer and his milieu rather than relating to it explicitly. As it happens, their own points of view seem to coincide with Brown's, especially when it comes to drinking, driving around, and rural Mississippi life in general. There are occasional respites from the parade of whiskey-voiced singer/songwriters with guitars, notably a version of "Glory" (aka "When I Lay My Burden Down") by the North Mississippi Allstars that sounds like it escaped from an old Ry Cooder record, but for the most part this is an album that could be mistaken for highlights from a Steve Earle impersonator's contest. Brown himself closes the proceedings with "Don't Let the Door," a song that, to the extent his thick Southern accent can be parsed, positions him as the only humorous voice on the disc. It could have used more of him.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann