Randy Lewis Brown is another in the gifted group of Texas singer-songwriters full of poetic flair and engaging narratives. Red Crow is collection of 13 original songs, four of which are co-written. Brown sings in a clear, eminently listenable voice with great articulation and just the right amount of emotion. His songs are mostly about hard resignations with just enough glimmers of hope to keep it palatable. He appeals because he sounds as if he’s lived in most of the songs and brings the kind of intimacy as if he’s sitting next to you, drink in hand, sharing the tale with you.
Red Crow was produced by Merel Bregante, the CMA of Texas’s Producer of the Year in 2019, in Austin, TX. The musicians are Brown on acoustic guitar, banjo and all vocal leads, Michael Dorian (Sarah Pierce Band) on electric guitar, Riley Osborne on keys, Mark Epstein on bass, Dirje Childs on cello, and Cody Braun (Reckless Kelly) on fiddle, mandolin and harmonica. Sarah Pierce sings harmony on several.
Brown has a slew of outstanding songs and no fillers. The opener “One Horse Town” is a haunting tale of man who’s slept alone for 13 years , watching a dead horse decay out in the neighboring meadow with buzzards circling. (heck of way to begin an album, right?). Yet, the one horse that died serves as a metaphor for dying small town life. He uses the metaphor of a whippoorwill and a mockingbird, an elderly couple, and really all of us in “Not Ready Yet.” In the title track, his imagery had the red crow leaving calling cards and revealing an uncomfortable truth. Strong imagery colors “Other Campfires” while “Any Old Train” perfectly captures desperation. “Barlow Road” is another standout track, comparing Moses and early Biblical references to the hardships experienced by America’s pioneers. “Good Old Days” seems to be a sarcastic nod to the America Trump champions.
Throughout the music is comfortable, supporting the song and never stealing focus from Brown’s poetic lyrics. Yet Brown never lets us get too comfortable, There’s an uneasiness in many of these songs, certainly in “October Again” but even more so in the closing “Goodnight, Good Luck” with the daunting chorus ‘goodnight, good luck, goodbye,” especially with the inflection of his vocal on the last one. It leaves such an emotional impact and a lasting provocative hint that calls for repeated listens to the other songs for fear of missing something the first time.
- Jim Hynes