Appropriately, one of the most evocative songs on folksinger Greg Brown's new Slant 6 Mind (his 13th album for Minnesota's Red House Records) is about fabled bluesman Robert Johnson: Brown's ability to mine inspiration from nightmare is reminiscent of our most profound blues poets. His voice, molasses spiked with razor blades, evokes despair, passion, and tenderness with equal ease; his guitar lines hint at the sensual propulsiveness of rock 'n' roll as well as the introspective melancholy of folk. Brown's gift is most evident, though, in his lyrics, which range from the subversive ("So how are things going / In the small dark movie of your life") to the surreal ("In the chemical fields by ammonia light / I would offer my prayer to the corn goddess tonight / But they chopped off her head and stuck her body out on the lawn"). Singing of social decay or personal journeys, Brown skirts sentimentality, yet never succumbs to cynicism; his love songs are not only among modern folk music's most tender, but they're also sexy as hell. What Townes Van Zandt was to the southwest, what vintage Springsteen was to the rust belt, Brown is to the heartland: a bard of shattered dreams who refuses in spite of everything to abandon his faith in the power of love--not because it's right and certainly not because it's rational, but because it's the only game left in town. Friday, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jim Herington.