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Pieta Brown

Paradise Outlaw – 2014 (Red House)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Pieta Brown

If Pieta Brown had any reticence about following her father, singer/songwriter Greg Brown, into the family business, it certainly hasn't shown in her stellar catalog to date. Brown has typically leaned toward a more sparsely appointed soundtrack for her ephemeral folk tunes. That formula holds true on her sixth release, "Paradise Outlaw," but her banjo maintains an unexpectedly high profile, as ever present as husband/producer Bo Ramsey's slinky and effectively reverbed guitar lines.

Ramsey gives the music an atmospheric shimmer that suggests Daniel Lanois' spooky deep-well approach, a sonic humidity that perfectly suits Brown's whispery, come-hither vocalizing. In response, Brown peppers "Paradise Outlaw" with perhaps the strongest material of her career, influenced by her love and admiration for the Beat writers of the '60s and their freeform narrative style. "Flowers of Love" finds Brown tapping into a Dylanesque vein, "Before Gas and TV" and lilts and drifts like Buddy Miller at his most languid, "Ricochet" hits like the velvet fists of Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris, "Letter in Hand" waltzes along on a gorgeously melancholic wave and the instrumental "Little Swainson" is as darkly beautiful and overtly romantic as anything Tom Waits has ever committed to tape.

With each successive spin of "Paradise Outlaw,"Brown's musical arrows hit a little closer to the listener's heart-shaped bullseye with an aim as true as William Tell and Elvis Costello combined.