The American folk scene thrives as a subculture outside the major labels, major magazines, and major venues. Characterized by guitars without distortion and tolerance for everyone except Republicans, fotkies sing about ecology and relationships with varying degrees of solipsism and sensitivity. When it’s bad, it’s precious. When it’s good, it provokes thought and feeling in areas that jazz and rock just don’t reach.
Greg Brown is one of the best folkies now plying his trade in coffeehouses and university towns across the country. In both sound and word, he operates somewhere between John Prine and Leonard Cohen. His warm, slightly ragged baritone seems to switch off the worry circuits in your brain, making it the optimum vehicle for describing the bittersweet existence of aging babyboomers confronted daily with ironies of overeducation and underincome. “The wine bottle’s half empty, the money’s all spent/We’re a cross between our parents and hippies in a tent,”he sings on his latest album, Dream Cafe (Red House, 800-695-4687). An understated but tasty backup band and several references to fishing as a metaphor for dreaming foster a sound environment for late-night soul wrestling. Brown will be touring through the summer at places with names like Three Rivers Folklife Society and Painted Bride Arts Center. —C.M.Y.