Concert Review: Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and Garnet Rogers

By folkmama, 12/07/10

Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and Garnet Rogers performed in front of a full house on Sunday, December 5, 2010 near Harrisburg, PA for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert. Garnet did an opening set, and later joined Greg and Bo for four numbers at the end of the evening.


It was a special treat to start of the evening’s concert with one of Canada’s best and most prolific songwriters; Garnet Rogers. A great friend and admirer of Brown’s, he asked Susquehanna Folk if he could share the bill.  Garnet is everything audiences could possibly want in a folk singer—lovely voice, masterful guitar work, lots of humor and terrific lyrics. He’s is also an enthusiastic collector of vintage guitars, all produced before 1944. For his short set he had one end of the stage lined up with a selection of some of his beautiful, antique guitars—each one gleaming and clearly well looked after.

 Garnet opened up his set up with the lovely song Soul Kiss which is a good choice for showing off his stunning baritone voice. The song has the beautiful lyrics “Seal it with a soul kiss. Nothing is as beautiful as this. Soul kiss changed your life. Have mercy on a soul kiss”. After switching guitars (and moods), he lit into the bluesy number Welcome to Hell–a cleverly written  “walking tour” of hell—who’d you see, what you’d hear and whose books you’d be expected to read. Love the last stanza; “You could have been a better guy, not so much of a jerk. Quit your whining here’s your banjo, get to work.”

Last on his set was another slow, beautiful number; this one a song of thanksgiving. He told the audience that he’d recently bought a little house in Nova Scotia (four houses down from where his grandmother used to live) where he could look out and see the cove. The reflective lyric “The small boats outside my window reflect their color to the water, like gaudy gypsy caravans, bright yellow red and blue” is a good example of Garnet’s ability to use words to paint crystal clear images in the listeners’ minds.It was a very strong set from an exceptional performer who Susquehanna Folk hopes to bring back soon for a full evening of music!


After an intermission we welcomed Greg Brown with his sideman, fellow “Iowan” Bo Ramsey. For those that are unfamiliar with Greg Brown in concert, he’s a little difficult to describe. He definitely has a mystique about him, created, in part by his ultra-relaxed persona on stage and his unusual outlook on life. If you are used to those entertainers that jump around and really play to the audience, Greg is certainly on the other end of the spectrum.  Audience members feel such an honesty and intensity from him that it puts them on the edge of their seats and makes them really want to listen–hard. Like Garnet, his songs paint vivid pictures of everyday wonders, fears and struggles.  He brings his music and beautiful poetry to audiences in an unassuming manner which reflects who his is and what he stands for.

He started his set with one of my favorite Iris Dement songs Let the Mystery Be (“But no one knows for sure, and so it’s all the same to me, I think I’ll just let the mystery be”) and continued  with “Freak Flag”—an anthem about being proud of who you are. (“For every soul you can be down. For every child who sees the light and turns around, come on now; let’s let the freak flag fly.”) The next number One Wrong Turn showed off Brown’s gravelly voice. He continued his set with a couple of unnamed rhythm and blues numbers, featuring some nice guitar licks by Bo Ramsey. Then he lit into the humorous Fat Boy Blues (“I looked down in consternation, I couldn’t even see my shoes. Houston we have a situation. I’ve got the fat boy blues”)

Greg did a few more numbers, but like me, the audience was probably getting anxious for one of his off-beat stories, and we weren’t disappointed.  Towards the end of the evening he told a very funny story about the whippoorwills outside of his farm making such an “insane amount of noise” that they should go to see “bird therapists”, even though they were just making all that noise “looking for love.” The lyrics of the Whippoorwill song are quite nice too:  “You are dearer to me than the birds or the stars, Sweeter to me than the hills and the flowers. Long as I have you I can take anything. So let love be home, and let the whippoorwill sing.”

The long night of terrific music ended with Greg, Bo and Garnet performing three songs together. It was quite a memorable concert full of excellent music and good stories. I recommend that you take a listen to Garnet and Greg’s music by checking out the You Tube’s below.

Garnet Rogers, Soul Kiss:

Garnet Rogers, Welcome to Hell:

Greg Brow, Fat Boy Blues:

Greg Brown, Whippoorwill:


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