Iowa Troubadour

Settling down on his grandparents? farm with new bride Iris DeMent, singer Greg Brown has some fun

| May / June 2003

While driving down an Iowa highway one night, folksinger Greg Brown started picking up a strange frequency full of interesting tunes?but the car radio was off.

?I was coming home from Colorado, right down through this country where I live now, and I heard all these songs in my head, one after the other,? he says. ?I felt like a radio station?like the songs were coming out of the ground or the trees or something, and I was just catching them. I have never had an experience quite like that.?

Brown, whose smoky voice and deep-reaching songs are the stuff of legend in the folk and roots music world, says he usually has to work much harder at his craft. For example, he wrote and rewrote the title track many times for his most recent album, Milk of the Moon (Red House), a song he casually describes as ?a tough one.?

?Some of them, you feel like you can?t ever get it right,? he says over the phone from his home in the Hacklebarney region of southeastern Iowa.



Brown often gets it right, to judge from his loyal fans and frequent critical kudos. Many other songwriters also revere his work, and the Iowa troubadour has recently been the subject of the ultimate symbol of musical iconhood, the tribute album. Last year?s Going Driftless (Red House) attracted artists including Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Iris DeMent (whom Brown recently married), and Mary Chapin Carpenter to serve up their versions of Brown tunes, with royalties going to the Breast Cancer Fund.

Brown?s latest project is a first for him: an album of traditional folk songs, called Honey in the Lion?s Head, which is slated for a late-spring release on the small Iowa label Trailer Records.