Greg Brown

Slant 6 Mind

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For the most part, this 14th album is business as usual for Greg Brown, which is very good news indeed. As always, he covers wide terrain, both musically and conceptually, and he shifts gears effortlessly, delivering a lilting love song ("Vivid") one minute and a haunting portrait of bluesman Robert Johnson ("Dusty Woods") the next. Other highlights include "Speaking in Tongues," which draws on his memories as the son of a Pentecostal preacher; the bluegrass-tinged "Wild Like a Sonny Boy"; "Loneliness House," a meditation on depression; and "Whatever It Was," a stinging attack on modern society. If this album marks any change in Brown, it's that his lyrics are getting more challenging, and at times downright mysterious. But like Bob Dylan, he knows how to write songs that are lyrically memorable even when they're hard to explain. Witness the lovely, evocative "Spring & All," which produces its magic with cryptic lines about "fog from God's cigar" and "the letters you sent back to burn." Brown's voice -- which can be gentle and soothing but is often a sandpapery growl -- remains a remarkable instrument. Suffice it to say that once you've heard Brown's voice, you won't forget it. And while Brown once claimed he could sing Hank Williams songs with even more passion than he delivers his own, this terrific album makes a more passionate performance hard to imagine.

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