Program Notes

A beautiful riff that dates as far back as Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World" visits town twice this week, showing up in the Floating Men's "Call of the Wild" and in the lead track of Greg Brown's latest masterpiece, The Poet Game. It's just a little high-note-bomp-low-note-sustain, but when played by the right guitarist, it might as well be humanity understood.

If you ever aspire to use this language for something other than manipulation for money, regurgitating already spent ideas and letting sentence structure overrule passion, if you believe there is only one thing supernatural A the magic of words A then you should listen to all of Brown's dozen albums at least twice per day. Wouldn't leave much time for writing, but what the hell, Brown's pretty much done said it all already A and as for me critiquing Brown's genius, what praise is left unspoken?

Name your feeling. One or another of Brown's several hundred songs will speak to it. He has written of everything important, from the pathetic human concept called God to boyhood fishin' adventures to a parent's despair over a flu-bitten offspring to a girl who ran away to the military to escape sexual abuse by her stepfather, ended up a stripper, and found that the whole world is made up of exploiters and liars and betrayers of morality. Brown saw before most that the United States soon will be nothing more than one big strip mall. In Brown's songs, the moon and the sun and the stars are reduced to scratchings on a piece of paper, and yet magnified beyond their physical magnificence.

But who am I to say such things? I claimed that Brown was America's greatest living songwriter six years ago, and it took until 1993 for him to even get a Grammy nomination (as if Brown, who once told me that he didn't have any interest in stardom or money, didn't understand what fame and fortune did for people, needs some validation from those sad quarters). From an old story in the Utne Reader: "Brown was once dubbed 'the world's greatest songwriter' by a reviewer with his hometown paper back in Iowa City. Though the statement seems a classic case of overblown boosterism, close attention to Brown's [then] new record One More Goodnight Kiss makes me wonder whether there isn't something to the claim." That same publication would go on to call Brown a "genius" in several subsequent articles. Z stated that Down in There "rivals Dylan's masterpiece Blood on the Tracks." Option says Brown's voice "reaches way inside you." The Village Voice mentioned his "craggy glory" and "richly detailed song cycle." One publication called him the Dylan of the Nineties, another said he's "pure Americana," and Rolling Stone loaded Brown down with the task of "shaking us from sedation."

Yeah, Mr. Brown, culture's run amok. What's worse is the bullshit of those paid to comment on it. Not that the above-mentioned accolades aren't true enough, just that they're not true enough. Except the confession that maybe those of us who've been praying at Brown's altar for a decade aren't totally insane.

I've been writing about his new one, The Poet Game, since I received an advance cassette months and months ago. But I threw away every word. Instead I'm writing this at 5:00 a.m., seven hours before a deadline I won't make. I'm playing the Poet Game loud, alone. The song "Jesus and Elvis" (which Brown previewed in his most recent appearance at Stephen Talkhouse, where he returns Saturday) is making me laugh but I'll cry in a cut or two. I feel so foolish. But sometimes even journalists have to be honest.

A new South Beach venue, the restaurant Cafe Atlantico, now rocks on Thursday nights, beginning tonight with the mighty Mr. Tasty and the Bread Healers.

Saturday Jennifer Culture plays one of its out-of-control acoustic sets at Nocturnal Cafe. On Wednesday the band performs with the Baboons at Rosebuds.

On Tuesday at Rose's, rap flows from various artists and a funky backing band that doesn't want to be named but was referred to in the preceding paragraph. Women who normally take their clothes off at Club Madonna also will be a part of the show.

Don't look for fan favorites Muse. Singer Paul Isaac's badly injured back will keep the group out of circulation for a while, though a CD is expected soon.

Do look for the not-seen-around-lately Phil T. Rich and the Fornicators. They return tonight (Thursday) with a show at Silver Dollar.

Also tonight SeptemberThirty (a name change from September30) re-emerges, performing at the University of Miami's Wesley Coffeehouse ("two bucks for all the coffee and music you can drink," the band quips).

On Sunday the MoJazz Cafe celebrates its second anniversary with the legendary Ira Sullivan and a horde of other local jazzers.

I have absolutely no idea if this is true A polka-punkers I Don't Know say they're slated to sing the national anthem at Sunday's Heat-Hornets basketball game at Miami Arena. But hey, what is truth?