Music » Critics' Picks

Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey with the Mary Janes

Saturday, June 1; Off Broadway


Family has always been the central animus of folk music. Kinship carries the melodies, preserves the history, passes on instrumental skill and provides the themes to songs that wouldn't exist without the complex currents running deep in the blood. As the eldest daughter of acclaimed Iowa singer/songwriter Greg Brown, Pieta Brown knows the burden and blessing of family. For her self-titled debut, she enlists Dad's aid on only one song -- the banjo and harmony vocal the father brings to "Pass You By" is as subtle and unassuming as the mood the daughter envisions for the project. Still, Pieta Brown's recondite, wistful songs echo with the simple vernacular poetry of her father's lyrical ballads and also occasionally push into the kind of rusted blues he has, for nearly two decades, forged with guitarist and kindred spirit Bo Ramsey.

Ramsey has spent the last few years on the road with Lucinda Williams (whose last album, Essence, he co-produced), but during tour breaks he's worked with Brown, wrapping his inimitable tone and admirably wank-free slide guitar licks around her fragile, sensual voice. They collaborate like soulmates who seem to know each other beyond the years, and their first St. Louis gig together (along with fellow Midwesterners the Mary Janes) could be one of the spring's biggest musical surprises.

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