Don Was, producer of Pieta Brown‘s EP Shimmer (Red House Records), overstates the case when he calls Brown “a great singer-songwriter who possesses major star power magnetism,” but she is indeed quite capable. Brown is a pleasant throwback to the troubadour mode that gave such folkies as Tom Rush and Rosalie Sorrels their groundbreaking careers. She handles the artform with a sure hand, telltale evidence of her bloodline as the daughter of folk legend—and Red House Records founder—Greg Brown.
Shimmer (her sixth disc, and first for Red House) is simple and nicely effective, showcasing Pieta Brown’s bright and airy, sweet vocals. Playing acoustic guitar, she’s accompanied by venerable veterans Bo Ramsey on electric guitar and vocal harmonies and Was on acoustic bass. Engineer Krish Sharma does the sparse instrumentation justice, giving the atmosphere full body with Brown’s guitar ringing out in rich texture. Listening to Shimmer, you really couldn’t ask for a more relaxing experience on one of those reflective rainy days when you just curl up in the easy chair, looking out the window at nothing in particular.
“You’re My Lover Now” is a sardonic beauty, melody vaguely reminiscent of fellow folk devotee Roger McGuinn’s “Ballad of Easy Rider.” The lyrics are shot straight from the hip. As in, “Hallelujah is for the damned/ Forever always was a scam/ You’re my lover, you’re my lover, now” and “House for sale, it’s empty still/ Just a bottle on the window sill/ You’re my lover, you’re my lover, now” for verses and a bridge that goes “Here I am standin’ with my feet on the floor/ Greatest show on earth’s outside my door/ So many names I don’t call/ Anymore.” The hillbillyish “Lovin’ You Still” is a classic sweet-times-gone-sour lament, opening, “Gave me your word/ Gave me a ball and chain/ Gave me the strength to love in vain/ Gave me a reason to have and to hold/ The place where I hold you/ Is dark now and cold.” It’s the kind of stark word picture set to plaintive music that country-pop siren Jennifer Warnes is so great at covering you can’t help wonder how it’d be if she got her hands on this one.
All in all, Pieta Brown acquits herself well on Shimmer. Pick yourself up a copy for those days when you don’t want to be bothered answering the phone and just feel like being alone with your thoughts. And put down on your calendar that she’s in Minneapolis on April 25th, opening for Mark Knopfler at the State Theatre.