Pieta Brown, where have I been all your life? I phrase it this way because you’ve spent the past several years putting out fantastic CDs while I’ve been hanging out in the land of the clueless. But I’m here for you now so please send me a membership card and sew-on patch for your fan club. “Paradise Outlaw,” released on September 30, is Brown’s sixth album. Her first one was released in 2002 which is why I’m feeling so late to the party. Thankfully there’s still plenty of punch and cheese curls left as I make my way to shyly try to join the conversation.
Pieta Brown is the daughter of singer-songwriter and folk legend Greg Brown. Again I say, how did I not know this?
Brown was born in 1973 in a rural part of Iowa without a furnace, running water or even, gulp…TV. Years later while living in Alabama with her mother, Brown started writing poetry and composing instrumentals on piano. In her 20s, Brown picked up a banjo and then a 1930s Maybell arch-top guitar. As the saying goes, she never looked back. I however, look forward to spending the coming months ensconced in Brown’s back catalog but for the moment, “Paradise Outlaw” is front and center through my red Sony headphones.
The album was produced by Brown and her husband/guitarist Bo Ramsey. It was recorded in four days at Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) April Base studio in Wisconsin. Guests on the album include Vernon, Greg Brown, Amos Lee and assorted members of an experimental group of players known as the Sawdust Collective. On it you’ll hear 12 originals, a co-write and duet with Amos Lee and a cover of Mark Knopler’s “Gas and TV.” Said another way, this album packs a whole lotta punch.
Brown’s singing voice is many things at once – tender, passionate and well-matched to her poetic, heartfelt lyrics. “Back To You” is one example. “Unable to concentrate, digging for words. My hands in my pockets and my mind a blur.” Another standout track is the duet with Lee. It’s a breezy yet not a sappy love song, with strong, soulful vocals by both singers. A minute in there’s a flourish of strings against country sounding electric guitar and not-in-a-hurry percussion. I’m not sure if this one has seen the light of day on radio, but it damn well should.
The closing track on “Paradise Outlaw” is “Rise My Only Rose” and I can’t multi-task when I listen to it. I just have to sit still and be one with it. Halfway through the almost five minute song, the tempo picks up and it becomes an instrumental. The slide guitar is stirring and the song is a pure pleasure listening experience. Twilight might be a good time to listen to it as the sun goes down and autumn darkness slowly settles in.
Pieta, I’m sorry it took me so long to find you but like Rose said to Jack in “Titanic” – “I”ll never let go.” OK maybe not quite so dramatically but you get the idea. May you have fair winds, following seas and a full house on Sunday night.
Pieta Brown CD Release Show, 8 p.m. Sunday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $10. onelongfellowsquare.com