Greg Brown – In the Hills of California (2004)

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Finally, a live Greg Brown album that captured his stripped-down, live sound. For many years leading up to this 2004 release, Greg has been doing solo shows backed up by the wonderful Bo Ramsey on electric guitar. That particular sound pairing is on full display here as well as some other great support guests including Nina Gerber, Garnet Rogers, Pete Heitzman & Karen Savoca and Shawn Colvin in recordings were taken from various performances at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival.

Greg’s midwestern upbringing has given him very strong feelings about the power of family, community, love and faith. These sentiments shine through is songs like “Wash My Eyes”, “Poet Game” and “Two Little Feet”:

John Muir walked away into the mountains
in his old overcoat a crust of bread in his pocket
we have no knowledge and so we have stuff and stuff
with no knowledge is never enough to get you there
it just won’t get you there

There’s also a great rendition of his classic “Slow Food,” a tune about the joys inherent in building a day around the slow and respectful creation of the evening meal. As he puts it, food with “all the love cooked in.”

While I’m generally reluctant to bring up politics, there is one song that begs to be discussed. I went to a Greg Brown show on the evening of the start of the war in Iraq. A rumor had been circulating on the GB mailing list that Greg had written a song commenting on not just the inevitable war, but on the icy state of our world affairs discourse. I posted the lyrics to “Homeland (I Want My Country Back)” on March 20, 2003. They’d changed slightly since then:

I want my country back
and a good dream to stand up for
Got my hand over my heart,
but I don’t feel at home here anymore

Big, big flag above the big, big mall
and the shake rattle and roll to the core
Things sprawl after they fall, and I don’t feel at home here anymore

Homeland of Sojourner Truth
and Chief Joseph before
Many quiet words of wisdom drowned out by TV
and I don’t feel at home here anymore

Blind engineer, war train on the track
many many a heart is sore
We want our country back; we want to feel at home here once more

I want my country back.

As they say, intelligent people may disagree about the current state of affairs. It’s just kind of sad to see the blind rage and and inner-directed venom poisoning who we are, or who we want to become.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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