Critic's Choice

Over the better part of three decades, native Iowan Greg Brown, who headlines at the Boulder Theater on Friday, December 5, has built a body of work beloved by practically everyone who's heard it. That number is relatively modest as a result of the singer-songwriter's decision to stick with the independent Red House imprint rather than answer the siren song of a major label. Yet If I Had Known, a new compilation of recordings Brown cut between 1980 and 1996, presents a compelling argument in favor of his choice. The title track, which looks back wistfully on fishing trips and hayride kisses that could never be topped, is joined by sixteen other ditties whose timelessness is enhanced by a complete absence of commercial considerations. Hacklebarney Tunes: The Music of Greg Brown, a revealing documentary that's included with the set on a bonus DVD, eloquently underscores this point. Made in 1993, the profile demonstrates, in alternately amusing and poignant ways, that Brown is so gifted at depicting the small things in life because he's never put much of a premium on getting bigger. He's among the warmest of performers, and while mass success continues to elude him, his ability to move audiences remains undimmed. Those fortunate enough to see him live should consider themselves among the lucky few.


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