If you still haven't discovered Greg Brown
, this is as good a place to start as any. His deep, vibrant voice -- as instantly recognizable as that of Fred Neil
, Tim Buckley
, or Van Morrison
-- remains a national treasure, and so does his songwriting, which has gone from great to better over the years. Wisely keeping the production simple and his voice upfront on this release, he unveils some of his best songs about love, life, friendship, dreams, and the American scene. There are no major departures from form here, but hope and love -- not to mention hummable melodies -- are perhaps in greater evidence than in the past. There's not a rotten apple in the bunch, but highlights include the effusive "Rexroth's Daughter"; "Lullaby," about a long-married couple; and the lilting "Walkin' Daddy." And stay tuned after the album's official end for a "hidden" track, the very funny "Marriage Chant," whose lyrics offer a sort of modern variation on Rodgers and Hart's "I Wish I Were in Love Again."