Greg Brown — the eternal troubadour, folk’s poet laureate,
dusty chronicler of characters and cavaliers — reemerges with a threadbare
collection of gritty offerings that may rank among the starkest tales in
Brown’s extensive repertoire. While it’s
true that Brown doesn’t have the most appealing voice on record, his coarse
delivery resonates with honesty and emotion, adding heartfelt sentiment to each
of these songs.
These weathered ramblings resonate even on first hearing,
from the jaunty, tongue-in-cheek perspective of “Someday House” and the swampy
vibe of “Mercy Mercy Mercy” and “Where Are You Going When You’re Gone,” to the
melancholic grip of “Tenderhearted Child,” “Let the Mystery Be” and “Rain &
Snow.” Then again, Brown has always had a knack for plowing to the heart of his
subject matter; like Dylan, he takes up the challenge with little regard for
any kind of precious trappings. But here again, as with his fellow heartland
bard, the bleak, austere treatments often reflect harsh realities that affirm
the essence of those intents.
Freak Flag may not
be for everybody – indeed, its sobering, stripped down arrangements sometimes
make it difficult to digest – but it’s an affecting effort nonetheless. And
given the push and pull of modern day distractions, that ability to break
through the haze ought to be cause enough to care.
DOWNLOAD: “Tenderhearted Child,”
“Someday House,” “Where Are You Going When You’re Gone” LEE ZIMMERMAN