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MILK OF THE MOON (Red House) • Greg Brown

Even as Greg records go, this one's a jewel. The milk of the moon is not the only influence he's under here, but that of his co-producer friends Pete Heitzman and Karen Savoca, at whose studio this great disc unfolded.

Greg's singular writing style and his dirt and gravel road vocals are essentially revealed and laid bare in this sonic setting. It's produced, but on many tracks there are no drums to speak of. Comparisons are odious, but it hits me in the gut just like Blood on the Tracks did. But Brown is even more emotionally available, notably in "Ashamed of Our Love."

And there is joy, real joy, in these tracks. There may be no greater gift that a musician can give. Lots of them can bring you to the depths of introspection; it is the few that can lift your spirit up to where they have been.

And Brown is in joyful company here, I think that's the key element to the magic of this record. Karen Savoca's backing vocals on "Steady Love," Lord almighty, makes me so grateful I have mine. And Pete Heitzman really pulled out all the stops instrumentally on his dazzling array of instruments [see our review of Karen Savoca last issue], especially his expert and inspired guitar playing. It's a fitting counterpart to the fine work of Greg's normal six string foil, co-producer Bo Ramsey.

Greg's vocals are pretty amazing, they always make me break out my old and cherished Captain Beefheart records, one of the largely unrecognized musical geniuses of our age, who transformed himself into a very successful painter. They sometimes also hearken back to the work of Howlin' Wolf himself ("Let Me Be Your Gigolo"), and there aren't too many white fellas that call such an outlandish comparison to mind.

Greg breaks the banjo out in his grampa's style on the opening number, "Lull it By." It sets the tone for a record with an impressive musical range of sounds and a deep well of feeling from what has to be the most important guy playing folk music, or whatever the hell you call it, today. We loved this record. • FG

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