Greg Brown is the whiskey-and-sandpaper-voiced troubadour whose worldly wit and unabashed hipness (he inserted a reference to Aretha Franklin into a folk song about caring for a sick child) were such a welcome addition to the preciousness of the longrunning NPR show A Prairie Home Companion. Like Dave Van Ronk, Rosalie Sorrels, and a handful of others, Brown refuses to give in to the sweetness-and-light folkie temptation: vocal grit and deceptively pedestrian phrasing and intonation give his love songs ("I Slept All Night With My Lover") an aching sense of hard-won sanctuary; when he adds his trenchant, brooding social commentary to the mix, the results can be spellbinding ("One More Goodnight Kiss"). Brown's images convey a sense of perseverance amid irrevocable decay and loss, capturing the mood of late-20th-century rural America with chilling accuracy; everything Springsteen tried to accomplish with Nebraska, Greg Brown does effortlessly, without self-consciousness. If folk music is to remain a relevant force, it'll be through singers like Greg Brown. Saturday, 8:30 PM, Club Lower Links, 954 W. Newport; 248-5238.