Sweet G.A. Brown combines influences of Buck Owens and…Prince?
Gosh, kids, it seems like I’ve been on a winning streak lately, getting disc after disc of brain-tickling music. It’s always easier to write about music you really enjoy and this week’s experiment, Wordsmith by Sweet G.A. Brown, is turning out to be a hoot and a holler. The original tunes on this album are clever, funny and musically excellent. The covers are...interesting. We’ll touch on that in a bit.
First things first. Sweet G.A. Brown is probably not this cat’s birth name. Don’t know, don’t care, doesn’t matter, it’s what he calls himself and it’s really the perfect name for this music. That being said, Brown is nearly a one-man show, certainly a minimalist anyway. According to the liner notes, the “percussin’” is handled by the always-talented Dave Dowda and Husky Burnette lent some dobro and lead guitar to the project. Otherwise this is Brown’s baby, and the man has a head full of humor and licks.
My first impression was, “Buck Owens.” Brown doesn’t sing like Buck, his lyrics are a tad saltier than Buck’s, his picking…Actually, there are some similarities in the playing style, but the comparison is more about the overall feel of the thing. It reminds me of Buck in as much as the songs are well-constructed and meticulously played, while the lyrics are at once poignant and playful. I hope he has a blast playing, because it certainly sounds like it. Regardless, it’s a blast to hear.
Brown comes charging out of the gate with track one, a bright, bouncy honky-tonk tune called “I Broke Wahoo’s Leg.” It is a bit of humorous braggadocio about Brown’s many accomplishments. Whether he taught John Denver to fly a plane and sold shotgun shells to Kurt Cobain is subject to scrutiny, but I’d really like to think he pushed Bocephus off the mountain (unfortunately turning his career around). It’s a kicking little tune, and if the lyrics were about truckstops and waitresses instead of its more tongue-in-cheek fare, it could just as easily be a tasty Willis Brothers record (there was a thing called the Grand Ole Opry, kids, look it up).
I’m going to flash forward a few songs (except to say that track two, “My Give a Damn” opens with some blistering licks that would make Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins proud) to the title track, “Wordsmith.” Short, sweet, and hilarious, it takes a commonsense approach to some of pop music’s more nonsensical lyrics. I don’t know what the hell, “We all live in a yellow submarine” is supposed to mean, either. The shout out to Prince at the end of the tune (presaging the cover tune to come) was a nice touch.
There are 13 tracks on this album, mostly originals, but there are three cover tunes as well (for which Brown begs forgiveness from the original artists, a technique my own band has relied on from time to time). Covering John Prine is always a plus in my book, and his version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is worthy as well but it’s the cover of “Let’s Go Crazy” which sounds more like a sweaty, breathless tent-revival preacher that speaks to me the most.
The man is Sweet G.A. Brown, the album is Wordsmith, and it’s 13 tracks of infectious, guitar and lyric-driven fun. Is it country? Psychobilly? Outlaw? Who the hell cares? It’s good, really good, and you should keep your eye on Sweet G.A. Brown’s Facebook page for updates on his next live performance. In the meantime, check out the tunes on his Bandcamp page.