Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pssst: Mercury rising for Pieta Brown

Let us tell you how much we enjoy Pieta Brown's new album Mercury, which is out today on Red House Records. Once we heard it we immediately checked her tour schedule to find the closest venue to our home here in Milwaukee. There is simply no way we're going to miss her this fall. Not the way this music sounds.

There are no dates in Wisconsin, so it'll be an enchanting October Saturday night in Iowa City, Iowa, and do not doubt such a possibility exists. Brown has roots in Iowa, after all, and the Englert Theatre is the perfect place for her CD release show. And for kickers, Iris DeMent is there a night earlier to help celebrate the theatre's 99th anniversary.

Lucky us. And lucky you, if you can make it there or anywhere along the tour to catch the brightest new star in Americana music. (Sadly, not everyone has recognized this. Even our hometown newspaper, which tries be musically hip, ignores Mercury in its weekly New CDs feature while mentioning releases by Maria Muldaur, LeAnn Rimes, Daryl Hall, Switchfoot, Chickenfoot, et al.)

Brown, daughter of troubadour Greg Brown (who recorded Pieta's tender "Remember the Sun" on his new album Freak Flag), has come into full bloom as an artist. She has always had a dreamy, sensual voice with a magnetic pull. And now, on Mercury, we hear lyrical poetry that begins to set her apart from the best in the genre.

Tonight I’m dancing alone
The world left me on my own
I’m not the first
I’m not the last
Rolling stone

There are several gems on the 13-song Mercury, but none more magical than "How Much of My Love." You would love to have this dance with her, but she is confident and content to do it alone. A true rolling stone, as we have suspected since we heard her for the first time years ago at a smoky dive in Minneapolis. Guitarist Bo Ramsey was with her that night and has accompanied her most of the way. His contributions are evident on Mercury, along with those of bassist Glenn Worf, drummer Chad Cromwell, multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield and Mark Knopfler ("So Many Miles.") It is Knopfler who calls Brown's singing "effortless and natural, like rain on earth."

Mercury was recorded in three days in a studio near Nashville, where producer Richard Bennett (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Knopfler) was clearly moved. "Pieta's songs and melodies are beautiful, mystical, at times, frightening," Bennett wrote. "Among the many miracles about Mercury are those disarming vocals, recorded live as Pieta was also playing some very righteous guitar. Records are not made this way anymore and there aren't many artists capable of pulling that sort of thing off for three days running or even just one song. Most artists aren't Pieta Brown."

No they aren't, and Mercury is all the proof you need. It's time for Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout (PSSST) No. 24, Brown's second album to make the big board. We expect there will be more, and by then the rest of the world will surely know of this stunning jewel.

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