One dark, leathery note is all that is needed to identify the distinctive baritone of Greg Brown and his signature
style of folk-rock and blues. Deep, melodic and strong, like a dark brew, his voice is complemented by his deft ability
on the guitar.
Some attribute his charismatic voice and knack for detail to being the son of a preacher from the Ozarks. With his
mother playing electric guitar and his grandfather playing banjo, it is clear that his childhood involved a genuine
influence of music and language.
His lyrics are poetic and simple, stemming from his observations and experiences. That's all I've got," he said in a
phone interview a week before arriving in Durango for a Thursday night concert at the Smiley Building Auditorium.
His influences include great American poets like Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams and beat poets like Gary
Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. To Brown, there is no distinction between singers and poets.
Good poets are singing their poetry; it's kinda the same thing," he said.
His 1986 release, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, features the poetry of William Blake set to music. In terms
of musical tastes he was raised on church music, came of age to the soul sound and liked country music - that is, until the New Country" sound arrived in the mid-1980s.
Then music went down the tubes. There was a financial component to it," Brown said.
Elaborating further, Brown noted the difference in compassion and feeling in music using the example of Gladys Knight
and Alicia Keys singing the same song, If I Were Your Woman," years apart. Brown described the former as singing
with feeling, whereas Keys' version is more of a performance.
Music is slicked up and smoothed out," Brown said.
Listeners get what they deserve," he said, referring to the recent rise in popularity of country and pop music.
It all sounds the same to me, but I'm old and crotchety."
Having performed in front of audiences for over 20 years and with over 20 albums under his belt, the stage is a
second home for Brown. Never playing with a set list, Brown makes up the show as he goes along.
I'm looking forward to playing Durango. It's been a long time and the last time I played there I was at a cowboy
theater downtown," he said, referring to the Diamond Circle Theatre (now the Henry Strater Theatre), although Brown's
last Durango concert was actually at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall in 2003.
Recognizing that he grew up in a fertile time in music, with his uncles, aunts and cousins playing music to his dad's
good voice, Brown is carrying on the family tradition of music. His daughter, Pieta Brown, has become a successful
folk singer and has opened for her dad and used to tour with him in the early 2000s.
The concert is the latest offering by Mancos-based Bad Girl Productions, which is responsible for successful
sell-outs such as Michael Franti & Spearhead last year and Bruce Cockburn earlier this spring.
We choose acts that are a good match for the Durango and Mancos area," said Felicity Broennan, who founded Bad Girls
Productions with partner Tami Graham.
Jason Wilber, guitarist for singer-songwriter John Prine, will open the show.
Karin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College. Reach her at "mailto:becker_K@fortlewis.edu">becker_K@fortlewis.edu.