Baby boomer balladeer Greg Brown is like one of those friends you had back in school, the one you would always go to for advice because they could look at what seemed a complicated dilemma and extract an obvious answer. Brown’s wisdom cuts through the fog with amazing clarity.
Further In contains 12 songs typical of Brown’s dozen albums for Red House Records. Deeply personal, the lyrics dwell mostly on the importance of family and long-term relationships; several songs contain references to his disenchantment with life on the road. The music is simple acoustic folk, accented by the understated lap slide of Portland guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps, a few background vocals from Kate MacKenzie and a bit of nearly undetectable electric work from Bo Ramsey, who also produced the album. The closing song, “If I Ever Do See You Again”, is a jazz-bluegrass concoction that mixes in a dollop of violin and mandolin from Randy Sabien. Simplicity has always been a winning technique for Brown, whose gently booming voice commands your full attention.
While Brown says his songs are mostly about what’s happening in his “own little life,” he frequently provides commentary on the state of society’s ills. “Two Little Feet” finds Brown questioning rampant materialism, and “Where Is Maria” decries homogeneity and corporate takeovers. Further In is reminiscent of Brown’s best, such as the classic 1985 release In the Dark With You, or the more recent Dream Cafe. It’s always great to run into an old friend.