Pieta Brown: Freeway
Pieta Brown is the daughter of singersongwriter Greg Brown, but she left behind his ironic approach to the craft to develop a sincere, emotionally vulnerable style all her own. Along the way, she’s collected an impressive array of fans, including Ani DiFranco, who signed Brown to her Righteous Babe label, and Mark Knopfler, who adds his subtle guitar shading to “The Hard Way,” one of Freeway ’s standout tracks. In person, Brown usually appears with her husband, noted producer Bo Ramsey, on electric guitar. Like Knopfler, Ramsey is known for his restraint, never overwhelming the artists he collaborates with. On Freeway , however, the backing musicians often engulf Brown’s quiet, almost whispered vocals. On the title track, a dreamy examination of love’s comfortable pleasures, Jeremy Yivisaker’s distorted guitar fills clash with Brown’s breathy vocals. “Morning Fire” and “Beyond the Sun” are mid-tempo grooves with lyrics that question the validity of the singer’s deep emotions. The backing guitars and percussion accents alternate between sympathetic ambient washes and jolts of distorted noise and crashing cymbals that distract from the poetic spell Brown is weaving. When she’s left on her own, with the backing tracks mixed down to allow her vocals and acoustic picking to take the spotlight, as on “Bring Me,” “Shelter Now” and “Only Flying,” the music opens up to gently enfold you in Brown’s soothing vocals and the quiet poetry of her lyrics. The players should follow Knopfler’s lead and allow their contributions to stay in the background.