Brown's Sun Shines

Plus ... Widespread Panic and KT Tunstall

Remember the Sun
PIETA BROWN

(One Little Indian)

Having quietly released quality albums for the past five years, Pieta Brown's Remember the Sun ranks not only as her career best, but as one of the finest the loosely defined alt-country genre has produced this year. The daughter of acclaimed singer/songwriter Greg Brown (her stepmom is Iris DeMent), Pieta knows what makes a tune memorable, knows how to turn a phrase, knows what it takes to allow her voice — a distinct, expressive instrument that goes straight to the gut — to ease out of the mic as if she were performing in your living room. Oh, and Pieta also knows how to rock out, juke-joint style, as she does on the searing kiss-off "Not Scared," just one of the many standout tracks on her latest release.

Produced by Bo Ramsey — the amazing ax man who splits his time between recording and touring with Greg Brown and Lucinda Williams, among others — Remember the Sun ranges from smoldering, swampy blues to rollicking roots-rock with nods to folk and country working their way into the mix as well. Ramsey judiciously drapes Pieta's gripping vocals in everything from Delta slide guitar licks to the gorgeous violin and viola accentuations of David Mansfield, the fiddler who sweetened Bob Dylan's sound during the famed Rolling Thunder Revue of '75. Other songs get a lift from a churchy organ.

Remember the Sun doesn't have a bad tune in the bunch, but there's one song that really needs to be heard by anyone with even the slightest interest in vintage honky-tonk music — or anyone who can relate to a woman trying to balance work, motherhood and love during these hectic-like-never-before times. Titled "In My Mind I Was Talkin' To Loretta," the song finds Pieta pleading with country queen Loretta Lynn, trying to make sense of a world where "divorce and pills are commonplace" and "computers are running the human race." The musical accompaniment is weeping pedal steel and sawing fiddle, the melody as sweet as the lyrics are sad: "Just what's a woman supposed to do?" Pieta sings. "Be a mamma and a lover, break down under cover?" (onelittleindian-us.com) —Wade Tatangelo

Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999
WIDESPREAD PANIC

(Volcano/Legacy)

There are those who've drunk the Kool-Aid and believe Widespread Panic wield mythical powers, offering something on par with Hendrix at Woodstock every time they perform. To my ears, Panic has always been a solid boogie/rock band prone more to noodling than the kind of precision jamming pioneered by the Allman Brothers Band. Regardless, Spreadheads who follow the band across the country and think Light Fuse, Get Away ranks with At Fillmore East will have as much use for Choice Cuts as ABB diehards have for A Decade of Hits 1969-1979. In terms of a WP primer, this collection comes up short in that respect as well. The band is best known as a live act, and there are only two concert cuts here — "Pickin' Up the Pieces" and "Pigeons" — both of which can be found on Light Fuse. As for the remaining selections, WP's only two songs to chart on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks survey — "Can't Get High" and "Hope in a Hopeless World" — are curiously omitted. About the only thing this best-of gets right is including "Ain't Life Grand." A truly touching song with a driving, piano-driven melody that recalls Brothers and Sisters-era ABB, it's a song that probably would have been a huge hit had it been released in, say, 1974. (Widespread Panic perform Wed., Nov. 7, USF Sun Dome, Tampa.) 1/2 —WT

Drastic Fantastic
KT TUNSTALL

(Relentless/Virgin/EMI)

Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall has the ethereal pipes and sharp eye for lyrical detail that would make her a shoo-in for a Lilith Fair redux. But she also possesses a pop star's aesthetic. Just look at her new album cover: Tunstall clutches a big shiny guitar, wears a short shiny dress, raises her left leg high in an oh-so-sexy pose. Of course, the funky backbone and the sneer in the vocal of her hit single "Hold On" also points to a woman who vehemently opposes comparisons to Dido. —WT

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