Singer, songwriter Greg Brown was born into a musical family. His mother played the electric guitar, his grandfather played the banjo, his grandmother was a poet, and his father was a Pentecostal preacher. He was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa where music is a way of life. Music was always a staple in his life. At church there was gospel and hymns, at home there was classical, hillbilly, early rock and roll, country, and blues. Greg Brown studied classical voice and piano as a kid, and sang with choirs and in state competitions. When he was six or seven he picked up the pump organ. At twelve he learned the basics of guitar from his mother.
He began singing professionally around age 18 in New York where he ran hootenannies at Gerdes Folk City. Next he tried Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where he was a ghostwriter for Buck Ram, founder of the Platters. A few years later he moved back to Iowa to marry. He wrote songs, played in Midwest clubs and coffeehouses, and hooked up with the Iowa Arts Council, which took him to tiny communities around the state, writing, singing, and telling stories. He founded his own record company - Red House Records, and recorded a couple of albums on his own - The Iowa Waltz and 44 & 66. He then landed a job on National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, and began touring nationally.
After awhile, Greg turned over control to Bob Feldman to concentrate on writing and performing. He recorded his first widely available album, In the Dark with You, in 1985 to widespread critical acclaim. The next year, he released Songs of Innocence and Experience, which was comprised of William Blake's poetry set to music and featured Beausoleil founder Michael Doucet on fiddle. One Big Town, recorded in 1989, earned Greg his first NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors) Indie Award for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year, as well as three and a half stars in Rolling Stone. In 1993, Greg recorded Friend of Mine with Bill Morrissey, and earned his first Grammy nomination. That year he also made a foray in to kids' music with Bath Tub Blues. In 1994, he released The Poet Game, which brought him national attention, saw significant radio play, charting on AAA and topping The Gavin Report's Americana chart, and won a NAIRD Indie as singer-songwriter album of the Year.
Today Greg Brown continues to write, record, and perform some of the best music available anywhere. A tribute to his songwriting skills is the caliber of artists who have recorded his songs, including Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Michael Johnson, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
|In the Hills of California
One of America's greatest singer/songwriters returns with one of the finest "live" CDs of roots music ever made...recorded at northern California's idyllic Kate Wolf Music Festival. The only artist to appear every year in the festival's history, he has a strong emotional connection to the event and these stunning performances reflect it. 9 tracks are previously unrecorded and the other 20 are classics with all-new and surprising treatments. Proceeds from this project go to support Jugalbandi, a "Music and Arts as Education" program in northern California.
|Honey in the Lion's Head
Takes a detour from his usual fare by delving into a dozen traditional songs from "Old Smokey" to "Railroad Bill." The arrangements, with an exception or two, are straightforward enough. A nice blend of acoustic guitars, banjo, and bass will allow most folk purists to put aside their singer/songwriter prejudices. Even with cozy arrangements, however, the final mix is sprightly enough to entice listeners who appreciate a clean, layered sound. Brown's deep, ragged voice also evokes "authentic" folk music, as though he'd just been discovered in some Appalachian holler by a folklorist. - Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., All Music Guide
|If I Had Known: Essential Recordings, 1980-1996
A compilation of the very best of Greg Brown from his first recordings through 1996. Several tracks are performed with no more than an acoustic guitar. Others have a full band. Brown surrounds himself with competent players. Guitarist Bo Ramsey appears frequently, as do Dave Moore on harmonica and Gordy Johnson on bass. Prudence Johnson sings many of the background vocals. Shawn Colvin also lends her lush harmonies to a couple of tracks. Included is a 46-minute DVD documentary full of interviews, jams, and concert footage. The songs gathered here have been remastered from the original master tapes.
|Milk of the Moon
After a yearlong sabbatical from touring, Brown has released an artfully stripped-down CD. Long time friends and tour partners Pete Heitzman and Karen Savoca accompany Brown on the album and share production credits with him. Pete's haunting slide guitar and Karen's subtle backing vocals add definition to the album's beauty and rural imagery - naked, stark and muddied.
|Over and Under
Converts Greg Brown's vivid recollections of a particularly inspirational late-night drive across Iowa into the fulfillment of a covenant of another kind. Taking a vacation from Red House, his regular label, Greg Brown recorded this collection for the even smaller Trailer Records, which is based in his home state of Iowa. Recorded in just two days, it has a live-in-the-studio feel.
Highlights include "Lullaby", about a long-married couple; and the lilting "Walkin' Daddy". Also stay tuned after the album's official end for a "hidden" track, the very funny "Marriage Chant", whose lyrics offer a sort of modern variation on Rodgers and Hart's "I Wish I Were in Love Again".
|Slant Six Mind
Produced by Geg Brown and Bo Ramsey. Highlights include "Speaking in Tongues", which draws on Brown's 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.
"A wickedly sharp oberver of the human condition." - Rolling Stone "Further In contains some of the most beautiful and haunting tunes Brown has recorded. His distinctive voice, deeper and richer than ever, provides the ideal medium for his lyrics, while the musical arrangements are virtually perfect." - Associated Press
|The Poet Game
Produced by Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, and Bob Feldman. A somber, streetwise and stripped-to-the-bone songwriter CD.
Includes some of Brown's most heartfelt and enduring songs, most notably "Laughing River", "Spring Wind", and the crowd favorite "Just By Myself".
|Down in There
Produced by Bo Ramsey, the majority of the album's songs are ballads leaning toward spare folk and country, with a southern rock groove and an old rockabilly shuffle thrown in.
|One Big Town
Produced by Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey.
|One More Goodnight Kiss
Produced by Bob Feldman and Greg Brown, the CD is Brown's fourth studio CD, and is considered by many to be his first classic CD. Brown offers his reflections on small town life, from descriptions of the community characters hanging around the corner store to the importance of family bonds in keeping one's life grounded.
|Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Some of William Blake's best-known poems set to music by Greg Brown. Produced by Bob Feldman and Greg Brown.
|In the Dark with You
Produced by Bob Feldman and Greg Brown. Humorous and sardonic reflections on domestic life and aging.
Recorded Live at the Coffehouse Extemporé, October 8 and 9, 1982. Remastered and augmented with five tracks that were omitted from the original vinyl release for space reasons.
Produced by Bob Feldman and Greg Brown, the CD has a scratchy, low-fi, sound like a tape recording of a worn-out old '78. Celebrates small town life in Brown's native Iowa.
|44 & 66
Greg Brown produced 44 & 66 himself for his own Red House Records, and the setting is casual. This is an early album from one of the most enduring careers in contemporary songwriting and should not be overlooked. The CD release features the non-album track, "Coming Into You".