Throughout his widely applauded career, singer/songwriter Greg Brown has revisited the theme of connections missed and made, dissecting them with dry humor and an eye for telling details in his smoky, rumbling baritone.
On his latest album, Covenant, Brown's sharp commentary on mass communication becomes a telescope into relationship disconnects on the superb " 'Cept You & Me Babe" (RealAudio excerpt).
Several songs, however, roll in the joy of commitment, providing an unexpected (for Brown) sense of contentment particularly the drowsily intimate "Lullaby," the very cool and funny folk-rap "Marriage Chant" (the hidden track), and the upbeat, metaphysically astute "Walkin' Daddy."
The sweet resignation evinced on "Blue Car" (RealAudio excerpt) is made more poignant by the song's easygoing melodicism.
At once more vibrant than 1997's idiosyncratic Slant 6 Mind and less brooding than 1996's quietly masterful Further In, Covenant is nonetheless more accessible and musically diverse.
On numbers such as "Blues Go Walking" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Real Good Friend," Brown's producer and longtime guitarist Bo Ramsey adroitly mines the earthy blues in which much of Brown's music is rooted. His atmospheric guitar lines subtly enhance the drama of "Dream City" and "Living in a Prayer" ("Long as I'm in your heart/ I'm living in a prayer").
The album's big stunner is the ambitious "Rexroth's Daughter" ("What is real but compassion as we move from birth to death/ I am looking for Rexroth's daughter/ And I'm running out of breath"). Like wise poetry, it reveals more with repeated listens.