WOUB Music Blog

An Evening With Greg Brown

By
Mark Hellenberg

Dateline
Updated Wed, Mar 28, 2012 5:33 pm

Known for his poetic lyrics, bass-baritone voice and expert fingerpicking, Greg Brown has been called "one of the best songwriters in America" by The Washington Post.

The Utne Reader proclaimed Brown to be "one of the truly great musicians of our time. His quirky, profound songs and rootsy musicianship make him the peer of Lucinda Williams, U2, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan." Brown's songs have been performed by many artists, including Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Brown was born in Southeastern Iowa into a family of musicians, poets and preachers. After winning a music contest to open for folk singer Eric Anderson, Brown was persuaded by Anderson to follow his musical path to the Greenwich Village scene in New York City.

He then moved out to Oregon, down to L.A. and Vegas and finally, tired of the lifestyle, back to his home state of Iowa, where he played in midwestern clubs and coffee houses, recorded several albums and became involved with Garrison Keillor and his nationally renowned radio program, A Prairie Home Companion.

Brown came to national prominence after that association, and in the '80s, began the now-legendary Red House Records label, named after a house where he once lived.

Since that time, Greg Brown has released over two dozen recordings on Red House, including Grammy-nominated Slant 6 Mind, Songs of Innocence and Experience (featuring William Blake's poetry set to music), five live albums and two retrospectives, Essential Recordings, If I Had Known, 1980-1996 and Dream City, 1997-2006.

Throughout his career, Brown has been an advocate for various organizations that raise awareness and funds for social and environmental causes. 1999's Solid Heart is a CD and video of a two-night benefit concert for In Harmony, an Oregon-based foster care charity.

The 2002 Red House album Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown features many of Brown's songs covered by a roster of female artists that include Ani Difranco, Gillian Welch, Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Williams, his wife Iris DeMent, and his three daughters. The tribute benefited the Breast Cancer Fund. Brown's most recent album is last year's Freak Flag.

Greg Brown will perform at Stuart's Opera House on Friday, March 30. Brown's longtime friend, collaborator, producer, guitarist and fellow Iowan Bo Ramsey will open the show at 8 p.m.

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