Release Date: Mar 10, 2017
Record label: Lustre Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
Over the years, Iowa City native Pieta Brown has shown an enthusiasm for collaboration, frequently inviting others to help paint the canvas around her gossamer-toned folk songs. Aside from the constant presence of co-producer and husband Bo Ramsey, her six albums present an ever-shifting framework that seems to offer a fresh perspective each time around. For her seventh album, 2017's Postcards, she takes this a step farther, recording a set of ten sparsely appointed acoustic songs that were then sent to ten different collaborators to arrange and finish recording.
I've been trying to figure out what makes Pieta Brown's far-from-flashy seventh record so replayable -- it has become a Sunday morning staple around here -- and I think it may be a sense of listening in; both to Brown's quiet, lonely, bluesy folk ruminations of life on the road, and to the musical conversations she has with her peers. It has an honesty to it; a realness. The concept of Postcards was simple: Brown sent out demo-like versions of the songs as musical postcards to her friends, and they responded by recording parts wherever they were and filling things in.
Iowa City artist David Dunlap is well known for his postcards. The University of Iowa professor would frequently send the cards out unfinished for the recipient to finish, or gather them in a series that made some kind of associative rather than narrative sense for the viewer to process and complete. It's unclear whether part-time Iowa City native (she moved around a lot) Pieta Brown was directly influenced by Dunlap's work, or if it was just part of the town's atmosphere, but her latest release Postcards shares a lot (conceptually) in common with Dunlap.
Album number eight for Greg Brown's daughter Pieta finds the younger singer-songwriter reaching out to her musician friends and associates -- apparently by postcards or some sort of digital approximation, hence the disc's title — for assistance in fleshing out acoustic, near demo-styled recordings written in hotel rooms while on the road. Artists as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Carrie Rodriguez, Calexico, Mason Jennings, David Lindley and others returned the mail invitations with contributions to her bare-boned compositions. The result is this laconic, stripped-down set -- only one track has percussion -- that feels as intimate and lonely as the circumstances which created the music.