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Slant 6 Mind

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Album Review

For the most part, this 14th album is business as usual for Greg Brown, which is very good news indeed. As always, he covers wide terrain, both musically and conceptually, and he shifts gears effortlessly, delivering a lilting love song ("Vivid") one minute and a haunting portrait of bluesman Robert Johnson ("Dusty Woods") the next. Other highlights include "Speaking in Tongues," which draws on his memories as the son of a Pentecostal preacher; the bluegrass-tinged "Wild Like a Sonny Boy"; "Loneliness House," a meditation on depression; and "Whatever It Was," a stinging attack on modern society. If this album marks any change in Brown, it's that his lyrics are getting more challenging, and at times downright mysterious. But like Bob Dylan, he knows how to write songs that are lyrically memorable even when they're hard to explain. Witness the lovely, evocative "Spring & All," which produces its magic with cryptic lines about "fog from God's cigar" and "the letters you sent back to burn." Brown's voice — which can be gentle and soothing but is often a sandpapery growl — remains a remarkable instrument. Suffice it to say that once you've heard Brown's voice, you won't forget it. And while Brown once claimed he could sing Hank Williams songs with even more passion than he delivers his own, this terrific album makes a more passionate performance hard to imagine.

Customer Reviews

Dr. J. Hawk

I first heard about Greg Brown when PBS aired a documentary called Music of the River. A journey that started in Minnesota and worked down to Nawlin's. As they were goind through the Iowa/Illinois region, they featured Brown. I don't remember what song he sang, but it caused me to order this album off Amazon. I was stunned by the poetry. It was young Dylan. But Brown sings better and writes better music. Mose Allison Played Here is a light hearted poke at the dives where itinerate musicians pay their dues. Billy from the Hills speaks to the quiet rage that we all suppress for fear of losing control. Down at the Mill is reminicent of the anti-corporatism of Woody Guthrie and early Dylan.

The Full Ride

It's been . . . what? ten years? . . . since I first heard this album, and several of its songs still give me chills. Just thinking of them still gives me chills. The first track gets things off to a growling, pissed off start. The second one -- even just the opening few bars of the second one -- stops your heart. Four and five are beautiful and impressionistic love songs, the first melancholic, the second smitten. Nine and ten are as sexed-up sweaty as anything in hip-hop. The rest come straight out of Brown's life experience, and show it. After the full ride, the last track almost sounds like Brown challenging his listener: "Alright, then. You've heard it. Go home."

Start here, and keep coming back to it...

The first time I heard a Greg Brown song, it was "Billy from the Hills." I was mesmerized by both the songwriting and the performance. "Slant 6 Mind" is a great place to get to know Brown's amazing style. You'll want to visit other CDs for his very best songs, but this album is a great introduction to his work. "Rexroth's Daughter" and "Canned Goods" will show you the variety of his writing. On this album, there's not a bad track from top to bottom. Lean, spare, clear, nothing wasted. Don't miss it.


Born: 1949 in Fairfield, IA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Critic Josh Kun once described singer and songwriter Greg Brown as "a Midwestern existentialist hobo with a quick-draw mouth, a bloodied heart, and bourbon on his breath." One of the leading contemporary folk artists of the American Midwest, Brown's music reflects a poetic spirit while also sounding thoroughly down to Earth; his deep, craggy voice expresses quirky humor and the mysteries of life and love with equal skill, and over the course of a career that's spanned more than five decades, he's...
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Slant 6 Mind, Greg Brown
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