Greg Brown proves you don’t have to be a model-handsome MTV poster-boy with a beautiful voice and sizzling guitar chops to be a successful singer/songwriter. Writing great songs is the primary and essential talent for a long and prosperous career. On Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribute to Greg Brown we have an opportunity to hear what Brown’s tunes sound like in the nurturing hands of a stellar group of women performers. These songs were selected from 16 albums released since 1981. All Going Driftless royalties go The Breast Cancer Fund of San Francisco, California.
The list of artists involved in Going Driftless reads like a who’s who of important contemporary female artists. Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Iris Dement, Gillian Welch, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Victoria Williams, Eliza Gilkyson, Ferron, Karen Savoca, Robin Lee Berry, Leandra Peak, and Pieta, Zoe, and Constance Brown all contribute selections. Given the quality of performers winnowing out a favorite selection is daunting. Both Ani DiFranco’s rendition of “The Poet Game” and Shawn Colvin’s reading of “Say A Little Prayer” stop me cold. Whevenver I listen to them, these two performances send me to my favorite listening chair, commanding undivided attention.
Executive Producer Bob Feldman and mastering engineer David Glasser had their hands full trying to coordinate and match the sonics of twelve different studios. Remarkably not a single cut sounds noticeably inferior. On this one album you find a comprehensive survey of how well-recorded acoustic music should sound.
Going Driftless makes a strong counter-argument to the standard line “It’s the singer, not the song.” Perhaps in the future we’ll see more of Brown’s masterful material migrating into the pop and country music charts, but for the present, Going Driftless provides us with a glimpse of what great singers can do with equally great songs.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.