Music Review: Pieta Brown: All Or One (Red House Records)
I’m about to break two of my personal little “rules to live by”. The first is I’m listening to a new album all the way through, which I had sort of given up on. (And its the second time this week…Jakob Dylan was given a thorough listening on Easter morning.) The other thing is I’m writing an actual album review which I absolutely hate to do. Why? Not only is it a lot of work, but there’s pressure to be accurate about the details and you have to have completed at least one mail order course on how to be a critic of which I have not and my shortcomings will most likely become evident to you the reader. Rather quickly.
Pieta Brown is a woman I’ve never met nor seen perform, yet I have been a longtime fan and admirer of her music. Last year I wrote a piece about her and partner Bo Ramsey as well as the Iowa City music scene, and at the end I posted a disclaimer which somewhat needs to be repeated here. In a different time and place I helped run an indie music distributor and we handled a couple of her releases. And we did just an awful job of it to be completely honest, although we did have help from her (under-financed and performing) labels, and a rapidly declining record retail landscape. That she now records for Red House Records…the label started by her dad and sold off many years ago to the late Bob Feldman…makes me believe she’s now in much better hands. They are good people.
First of all….if you have no clue as to who Pieta is, or for that matter Bo Ramsey, stop reading this and go figure it out. I’ll help out a little and if you click this red thing it’ll take you to some sort of biographical information. I’ll wait for you.
Ok. One and All is the name of her latest album that came out this week and when I downloaded it this morning from Amazon they charged me just $6.99. That’s an amazing bargain for what is hands down her finest release in what already is a strong body of work. The down side to downloading it was that I didn’t get any liner notes or recording information other than song titles, so I’m flying blind here with just my ears to guide me. (Attention Red House: Help out the blogging community and make some more information (other than the PR fluff/stuff) about your releases available on the website.)
Produced by Pieta and Bo, I find the sound and the rhythm of this to be much more relaxed than anything prior. While I had thought that last year’s Shimmer would have been a breakthrough with Don Was producing, One and All is (pardon the pun) the one. For if this is not the collection that grabs your attention, you just won’t get her. While her earlier work made me envision a woman with a dark and restless soul (now doesn’t that sound like a stupid critic-like thing to suggest without having ever met her?), these songs are downright joyous and uplifting.
This would normally be the part of the review where you’d expect the reviewer to excerpt some lyrics and make stupid comments. Something on the order of “Pieta uses Bo’s cascading guitar arpeggios as a counterpoint to her lyrical poetry that represent the hopefulness she’s expressing from her heart” or some other babble. Man…I’m barely able to take the time to listen to everything she’s saying and also to pick out the tasteful instrumentation that they layered on here while typing. But here’s something that might be something for you deeper intellectuals to ponder…the songs are shorter than a lot of her earlier ones. Could it be she’s learned to send a message quicker, is in a hurry to get somewhere or her past year on the road with Bo has sharpened her focus? Either way, we win.
I see that Pieta is going out on a 28 city tour opening for Mark Knopfler which is probably good for her monetarily. There’s a large casino just a few miles down the road from my house and they’ll be playing there next week. For a moment I was excited and planned to go, but now I’m not so sure. This is not an artist I want to see for the first time surrounded by a papered house of high rollin’ folk there to see the sultan of swing. We’ll see.
But that aside, I love Pieta Brown and Bo, and One and All gives pause to my notion that the full length album has become an artifact. If they keep putting out stuff like this, I might start listening again. It’s a brilliant addition to this artist’s catalog and I recommend it to all.