By Greg Cahill
He’s the last American troubadour, a complex mix of Midwestern common sense and bohemian Zen appeal inhabiting a poet’s soul. In some ways, there are two Greg Browns: tender and tough, acoustic and electric, funny and sorrowful, cynical and filled with an unquenchable thirst for life. One careens down country roads in the dead of night in a broken-down farm truck, no headlights, a bottle of Wild Turkey wedged between his thighs and pioneering country-star Jimmie Rodgers blaring on the stereo. The other is a sunny child balanced on his grandmother’s knee, sampling her canned goods and drinking in a cool summer breeze.
“I know that I look at life and I see a lot of different colors, a lot of different moods,” says the singer and songwriter when pressed on the subject. “I do see a lot of causes for hope and I do see a lot of causes for despair. I see things that make me proud to be a human being on this planet, and I see so many other things that make me just appalled. All of that gets into my songs. On a particular Friday, I might feel quite hopeful, and by Tuesday I might be feeling that we’re completely screwed. I manage to find balance there between the two.
“But I can attest to being one person,” he adds with a laugh.
Acoustic Guitar Sessions filmed Brown shortly before a show at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California. He performed three songs—”Bones Bones,” “Laughing River,” and the haunting “Besham’s Bokerie”—and shared a story about each song.
Brown was accompanied by his recently purchased vintage Martin D-18. The story of that guitar is told in “Six-Strings Sagas,” a collection of guitar-talk moments from the past three years of AG Sessions.
You can read all 13 “Six-String Sagas” in the September 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine (available to subscribers beginning next week).