Great Guitar Work Dominates DCA Season Opener

Plenty of tasty guitar was unleashed by Bo Ramsey and Greg Brown at the June 21 opening concert of the Door Community Auditorium season. It often seemed like an intimate living room performance.

Bo Ramsey opened the show with a set of acoustic numbers that showcased his ability to evoke a scene with six strings and his fingers, especially hypnotic, dreamland states. Several times during his set I was reminded of droning West African guitarists. He presented works from his solo recordings such as Down to Bastrop (1991) and Fragile (2008).

Ramsey has one of those talking-singing voices, and his head appears to be on a ball-joint as it bobs and gyrates to the rhythms he creates.

Ramsey is as well known as a producer as he is a musician, having worked with both Greg Brown and his daughter, Pieta Brown, on 19 of their recordings. He has also served as Lucinda Williams’ guitarist and guest musician with many others.

The long and close association Ramsey has had with Greg Brown was apparent in the second half of the show when he provided brilliant electric guitar coloring to Brown’s songs.

Brown, too, has great style on his acoustic guitar and used it to great effect, especially on finishing flourishes to many of the songs he performed.

Brown seems to have transformed from the folk troubadour of his younger years into a new persona of an old bohemian bluesman. His once supple baritone has deepened into a gruff rumble that he uses in a way that makes sounds approximating words sometimes instead of actually articulating the words, in both song and speech. Which means that some of what he said and sang were indecipherable.

But when he did fully articulate his words, he was the same genial guy that has engaged audiences for decades.

Brown even poked some fun at himself and the aging process with a couple of songs from his 2012 release Hymns to What Is Left (his 30th recording since 1974) – “Fatboy Blues” and “Bones Bones.”

Some fans were left without hearing favorite songs – several were called out by the audience, but Brown did not acknowledge the shout-outs in any way. I was tempted to call out something from his 1980 Red House Records release 66 & 44, including the great title tune, or “Bozo’s In Love Again” or “Downtown,” but I held my tongue, recognizing that Greg Brown has moved on.

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