SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
March/April 2002

Greg Brown - Milk of the Moon
Red House Records, 2002

Musical Performance
****
Recording Quality

***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Each new Greg Brown release reminds me of the first line from the first song on his wonderful Further In: "So how are things going in the small dark movie of your life?" There is a strong element of the cinematic in Brown's songs, and it comes from his astute choice of detail -- the sort of detail that occupies all of our lives but often goes unnoticed. Milk of the Moon, Brown's latest release on the label he started, Red House Records, revisits perhaps his favorite subject, love, in more stripped-down arrangements than those on his previous CD, Covenant, which also dealt with love. And once again, the songs run the gamut -- from lost love ("Lull it By" and the title track) to the importance of faithful love ("Steady Love"), with stylistic stops at brooding, grating, whimsical and sweet along the way. And Brown's voice is in rare raspy form, all the better to deliver his knowing lyrics. This isn't standard folk fare, but it's as intelligent as music gets these days, anywhere. Past Greg Brown releases have featured very good sound -- I use cuts from The Poet Game and Slant Six Mind on the demo discs I take to audio shows. The sound here is a notch below, but still good overall. Milk of the Moon will have you reconsidering how you think about love -- and folk music....Marc Mickelson


The Big Wu - 3/13/98[NEW]
Bivco Records, 2001

SnapShot! Rating:
***

For every band that believes in spending copious amounts of time in the studio (and has such access), there are ten bands, or maybe 1000, like The Big Wu, the grandchildren in spirit, if not in exact approach, of Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes and the Grateful Dead's brand of jamming. The live set captured on 3/13/98 was played at the Cedar Cultural Centre in Minneapolis and recorded in its entirety. It's also one of the initial three releases from The Big Wu's own label, Bivco Records, and shares similarities with Dylan's great Live 1966 set, which is part acoustic, part electrified and was distributed as a bootleg before being officially released. The Big Wu's charm is evident throughout this long set, not only in the banter with the crowd but also in the playing. I enjoyed the acoustic material most, especially the sweet, wistful cover of "The City of New Orleans," but there are electrified gems too, like the laid-back "Dark Star," which begins disc three. The sound lacks impact and resolution, but it's a few notches above standard bootleg sound, though a few below what will appease audiophiles. The Big Wu has played in my town a few times, and I'll have to get to one of their shows next time they're here. 3/13/98 demonstrates that Big Wu concerts are spirited, fun-filled happenings, and what more could you want from live music?...Marc Mickelson


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