At last, an album Greg Brown likes

Folksinger's road trip promoting recording heads to Rialto Sunday
2013-01-10T00:00:00Z 2013-01-10T09:32:03Z At last, an album Greg Brown likesGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star
January 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Greg Brown plans on getting reacquainted with the road on his upcoming tour.

"I hope I remember how to do it," the longtime folkie said in a phone interview from his farm in Southern Iowa. "I really haven't been out there much at all."

Brown, 63, has been on vacation from traveling while his wife, fellow folksinger Iris DeMent is out promoting her latest album, "Sing the Delta."

Brown said the couple has a fantasy of one day renting an RV and touring the country together. Brown would perform one night and Dement the next, but never together.

"She doesn't like to sing with me on stage," Brown said. "She sings with John Prine quite a bit. She says John always sings the same and I never sing anything the same. She finds that a little difficult."

In the meantime, the two are taking turns out-and-about, so at least one of them can always be around for their 12-year-old daughter, Dasha.

It's now Brown's turn as he kicks things off tonight in Santa Fe on his way to Tucson Sunday, to promote his October release, "Hymns to What is Left."

Described by Brown as a quiet record that's "got some pretty good spunk to it," "Hymns" is a down-tempo, musical journey reflecting the songwriter's skills at putting pen to paper.

The 14 songs remain low and slow throughout, with Brown's baritone painting ear-pleasing pictures through powerful storytelling.

The bluesy "Besham's Bokerie" comes from a dream that Brown had of a backwoods bar full of trouble-making scoundrels.

"It was like watching a movie right until I woke up," he said. "My guitar was by the bed. I sat up and wrote down the words. Some of them come out like that, you know."

Another popular song from the album is "Brand New Angel," which Brown wrote nearly two decades ago but never recorded.

The song received new life when actor Jeff Bridges called Brown to see if he had any songs available for the movie "Crazy Heart," about a washed up country singer facing the tail-end of his career.

You might hear "Brand New Angel" from Brown at the Rialto Sunday or from Bridges when the actor performs at the Fox in April.

"For some reason, that song popped into my head when Jeff asked for something," Brown said. "I thought he sure as hell wasn't going to use it, but he did. He is a really sweet guy."

Brown said "Hymns" is the first of his own albums that he has liked in a long time.

His last release, "Freak Flag," released in 2011 on Yep Roc Records, was a disaster for the singer. The entire project had to be re-recorded after a storm wiped out tracks from the first session during the engineering process.

"It was a pain in every way," Brown said.

Other releases have fallen flat in retrospect.

"You record them and then listen to them a year later and it is like 'This is good' or 'I shouldn't have done that,' " he said. "That is the nature of it."

Brown is happy to be bringing his new music to Tucson.

He has strong ties to the area. He was good buddies with the late local singer Rainer Ptacek and Brown's daughter, singer-songwriter Pieta Brown, lived in Tucson for a while.

"I used to come down there quite a bit," Greg said.

If you go

• What: Greg Brown in concert.

• When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

• Cost: $27-$38 through the Rialto box office, 740-1000.

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