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Shimmer

Pieta Brown

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Album Review

Even though she spent the first several years of her career knocking out albums for other labels, in retrospect it seems inevitable that Pieta Brown would wind up recording for Red House. Not only was her father, legendary singer/songwriter Greg Brown, the label's flagship artist and co-founder, but his house (the very one where Pieta spent her first years) is the one that gave the label its name. You'd think her first Red House outing would be a full album, but there's a backstory to this seven-song EP. Producer Don Was heard a batch of Brown's latest compositions in their rawest form and decided to make as spontaneous a recording of them as possible, staying as close to that unvarnished approach as he could. Accordingly, the whole thing was recorded and mixed live over the course of just two days. In keeping with that no-frills aesthetic, Was stays far away from the fuller-sounding productions he's done for some artists, hewing closer to his bare-bones work on the last couple of Kris Kristofferson albums, for an effect not unlike that of the first Gillian Welch release. The focus here is squarely on Brown's evocative voice and simple acoustic guitar accompaniment, with only the subtlest of additional colors provided by Was on acoustic bass and guitarist Bo Ramsey, the latter a longtime musical foil for Brown's father. Brown's songs are economical in every way — lyrically, melodically, and structurally, and when you're working in a folk/alt-country mode, that kind of approach can only be to your advantage. While claims for her being a song-poet on the order of her father are a bit overenthusiastic, her imagery is incisive and carefully crafted, judiciously avoiding overstatement of any kind and relying on small gestures to imply grander emotions. Granted, Brown has never exactly been the over-the-top type to begin with, but the Spartan sound and sensibility displayed here augur well for the songwriter in her new home named after an old one. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Shimmer, Pieta Brown
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