As an unabashed Greg Brown partisan who'd grade his albums on a curve from B+ to A+, I think The Evening Call ranks up there with One More Goodnight Kiss (1988) and Further In (1996) for the sheer pleasure and depth of the wisdom it imparts. At the risk of oversimplifying the subtexts of one of the most poetic craftsmen among the singer-songwriters working today, if Kiss was Brown as family man and Further had him contemplating the onset of middle age, Call finds him peeking at senior citizenry as a wry curmudgeon.
By turns cantankerous, wistful, mischievous, and elegiac, these tunes are as varied and kindred as a dozen sunsets. My favorite swath begins with the talk-sung prose-song "Eugene." Reminiscent of the work of poet Gary Snyder, it's a plainspoken backwoods travelogue acknowledged as a man's final traipse across the American landscape. It's followed by the epic, gorgeous waltz, "Coneville Slough," about a longtime love relationship that ended some time ago—every third line will give you goosebumps. The triptych is completed by "Kokomo," a hilarious tall tale that wouldn't be out of place on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.
Ever the romantic, Brown opens and closes the disc with the sort of grown-up valentines that are an underrated part of his arsenal. Ever the realist, he tucks his saddest four songs just inside those margins, including the tear-jerking "Skinny Days" and the miserable "Cold & Dark & Wet." Either way, Brown is a resource to be treasured—and he's only getting better.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment