Album Review: Pieta Brown, 'Freeway'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), Folk Alley

Good art draws you into its world, fully and intentionally, to the point that, even upon completing your immersive cycle, you don't yet want to leave. Film and television have a lot more to work with, in terms of composing their own aesthetic universe, but albums, too, can create aural worlds unto themselves.

Singer/songwriter Pieta Brown has done so before, and does so again with Freeway, crafting a sonic environment that utterly envelops the listener in the best possible way. This time, there's a certain urgency to her work, but one that still requires a thoughtful response rather than a knee-jerk reaction. Brown isn't the kind of singer or songwriter who's going to go full power-punk. Instead, she lets producer S. Carey fill the space around her delicate voice with just the right balance of muted timbres and steely resolve.

The set starts with the gentle wonderings of “Ask for More.” It's a vibe that recalls Joni Mitchell in the liminal space between folk and jazz with brushed drums, washy bass, and tender piano, though Brown's vocal phrasing often owes more to Bob Dylan. “Bring Me” is a great example of the latter, readily showing how she lifts up and leans on certain words in a line, but with a much softer tone than Dylan has ever enjoyed.

On “Morning Fire,” “The Hard Way,” “Ever a Time,” “Before We Break,” and elsewhere, electric guitars leave a reverberating trail of ambient vapor in their wake as they lend their blunted edges to the framework. Even when there's more going on musically, Carey is careful not to overshadow Brown's voice and songs because that's where the real magic lives. The rest of it provides the smoke and mirrors that every great magician needs to make their gifts all the more spectacular.

As she did with Paradise Outlaw, Brown takes us on an enchanting journey with Freeway and leaves you wanting more time on this particular road.

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'Freeway' is available now via Righteous Babe Records at iTunes and Amazon.

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