Greg Brown Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol. 2, 1997-2006

Iowa's Greg Brown is something of a songwriter's songwriter. He has earned major peer respect {count wife Iris DiMent as a fan) and a loyal following in folk circles, and this new compilation (a sequel to Vol. 1's selection of tracks from 1980 to '96) will surely please the faithful. It's comprised of songs from releases on Red House Records (a label Brown co-founded) and Trailer Records, while a bonus CD features four unreleased recordings. One of these is an alternate version of the lovely "Lull It By" that improves upon the original, which is also included here. Brown has a rich, resonant voice that frames his poetic songs perfectly, as does the sparse yet subtly intelligent instrumentation. Long-time collaborator/producer/guitarist Bo Ramsey is featured on the majority of the songs, while Kelly Joe Phelps adds acoustic lap guitar to "Vivid," an album highlight. There's a rustic feel to acoustic songs like "Summer Evening" and "Why Don't You Just Go Home?" but most tunes feature electric guitar effectively. This is an excellent place for those unfamiliar with a serious talent to come in. (Red House)