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Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey

IN THE COOL  •  Pieta Brown

If I wanted to get all critical on Pieta Brown's In The Cool, I could say that some of the songs sound similar--but then so did most of the songs on U2's first three records. Or, I could mention that she tends to swallow her words--but then Mick Jagger made a career of that, didn't he? The thing is, I don't want to criticize In The Cool, I just want to luxuriate in it: in the sultry sound of Brown's vocals, like Lucinda less the whine; in the exquisite rapport that she has with co-producer Bo Ramsey's telepathically tasteful yet searing, emotional guitar playing; in the perfect grooves provided by bassist David Jacques and drummer Brian Owings; and in the overall mood, that creeps into your bones like a hot summer's night in the city, with its hint of infinite possibilities.

Pieta Brown is the daughter of modern-folk legend Greg Brown, but her songs are more the progeny of Lucinda Williams' off-handed, stream-of-observation approach than her father's self-conscious craftsmanship. Unlike some of Williams' work, though, Pieta's songs never seem like unfinished ideas. Brown-the-daughter manages to make her descriptive rambles seem complete and inevitable--like any good art.

Any sameness in the tunes comes from a limited melodic palette, but there is enough stylistic difference to keep things from getting monotonous. "4th of July," a brilliantly detailed description of a rural holiday, favors a Stones ballad mode, while the title tune lurches through an off-kilter Howling Wolf groove. "Precious Game" kicks up the energy level further, complete with screaming solo, without diminishing the air of mystery that pervades In The Cool.

Born of one well-known songwriter and obviously influenced by another, Pieta Brown has nevertheless carved out a niche that is wholly her own. Ever since her first self-titled CD, when I am in the mood for the Pieta Brown sound nothing else will do, and that is some of the highest praise that I can bestow. • Michael Ross

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