Gifted Songwriter and Storyteller GREG BROWN to Appear Near Harrisburg, PA December 5, 2010.

Greg Brown first gained nationwide recognition during the 1980s and 1990s as a regular on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion”. A prolific songwriter and a keen observer of the natural world, Brown says that that he likes to think about his work “as stories sanded down into songs.” He has recorded over two dozen records, and has twice been nominated for a Grammy.

Greg Brown was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa and raised by a family that made words and music a way of life. His grandfather played the banjo, his grandmother played the pump organ, and his uncles played the mandolin. He grew up in coal country in an area that attracted coal miners from the Appalachian region. Because of this some of the Scots/Irish traditions associated with the Appalachians had  traveled overland to Iowa. “I grew up in a very fortunate way for someone who wants to be a musician, my kind of musician anyway” he said in a recent NPR interview “I just grew up with the stuff. That and church music.”

An important” training ground” for his magnificent lyrics seems to be his early childhood experiences with poetry. His mother, an English teacher, loved poetry and would often recite it to him. “I never made a big distinction in my mind between poetry and song” he said “I grew up loving both so much. And when I hear a poet read to me it’s the same experience as hearing music.”

The lyrics of his song “Early” show the subtle,  evocative  poetry that Brown is so well known for:

“Early”

Early one morning I walked out alone,

I looked down the street; no one was around.

The sun was just comin’ up over my home,

On Hickory Street in a little farm town.  And

Oooo-ee, ain’t the mornin’ light pretty,

When the dew is still heavy, so bright and early.

My home on the range; it’s a one-horse town,

And it’s alright with me.

Plow broke the prairie, the prairie gave plenty,

The little towns blossomed and soon there were many.

Scattered like fireflies across the dark night,

And one was called Early, and they sure named it right. 

Many dry summers parched all the fields,

They burnt the fine colors and cut down on the yield.

But the rain has returned to wash away our tears,

It’s the fullest green summer that

I’ve seen for years.

Beyond being a poet, Brown is also a gifted  storyteller. “The best songwriters are the ones that tell the best stories” says music critic Meredith Ochs “Greg Brown doesn’t just tell stories in a linear fashion. Instead he appeals to the senses as he creates a backdrop for his characters. The way that he describes sights, sounds and smells draws you right into his songs.”

Greg’s youth was spread across a map of the Midwest as they moved between churches (and even denominations), but music was always a staple. Gospel and hymns, classical, hillbilly, early rock and roll, country, and blues coalesced into a simmering stew of sound. At 18, Greg won a contest to play an opening set for singer Eric Andersen in Iowa City, who then encouraged him to head east. Moving to New York, Greg landed a job at Gerdes Folk City in the Village running hootenannies. Next he tried Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but after a few years he moved back to Iowa. He recorded a couple of albums on his own (44 & 66 and The Iowa Waltz), then began working on the renowned national radio show A Prairie Home Companion and touring nationally. After Greg teamed up with Bob Feldman in 1983, they re-released Greg’s first two albums under the name Red House Records — the beginning of the now legendary folk/roots label that has released nearly all of Greg’s 27 albums.

His latest solo album is The Evening Call which was released in 2006. It has charted high on Americana and folk radio, earned him five stars in Mojo and garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Acoustic Guitar and The Washington Post. Greg’s new collection Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2, 1997-2006 features some of these new Americana classics along with other fan favorites from his last six studio albums and some previously unreleased material and live tracks.

Greg Brown will perform with sideman Bo Ramsey in a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society beginning at 7:30 on Saturday, December 5. Garnett Rogers will open. The concert will be held at CHUM  in Camp Hill, PA.  Information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/GregBrown.html

Written on November 18, 2010 by Jess Hayden from material compiled from Red House Record’s website and NPR interviews.

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