Singer-songwriter Kevin Brown hails from rural Eastern Washington, where the arid Columbia Basin Plateau meets the Ponderosa Pine forests of the Selkirk Mountains. His songs explore the lives and thoughts of the folks that live in this region, people who enjoy being close to the earth and living close to home. And like the rough and raw landscape, Brown’s songs have many layers underneath. For a songwriter coming into a solo career in his late 40s, Brown’s debut album is surprisingly self-assured. This may be because of his long tenure with popular Northwest bluegrass band Big Red Barn. One of the most innovative bluegrass ensembles in the region, Big Red Barn covered a wide musical landscape and Kevin Brown continues that same roving musical restlessness with his debut album, The County Primaries. Aided by the production of renowned Northwest roots musician Ivan Rosenberg, Brown has released one of the most refreshing roots music recordings to come out of Washington in a long while.
The County Primaries is Kevin Brown’s first album as a songwriter, but word-crafting is obviously not new for him. The songs draw from images of life in Eastern Washington, from the dusty, empty fields of the landscape that feature as a metaphor in “Fallow” to the common threat of wildfires referenced in “Move Away from the Light”. It’s a rough-hewn landscape that lends itself perfectly to Kevin’s rusty voice and layered lyrics. Brown paints as vivid a portrait of the Northwest as Kate Wolf’s California or Townes Van Zandt’s Texas, but there is always more beneath the surface. Brown’s lyrics deal subtly with universal themes of faith, family, change, and the interwoven fabric of nature and humanity. They tap into the vein of truth and honesty found in the roots of country music, and are the kind of verses that spring forth from a lifetime of experience. For what other inspiration should a songwriter need than a life well lived?
On the album, Brown is joined by fellow roots musicians Eugene Jablonsky (bass), Caridwin Irvine-Spatz (fiddle), Ivan Rosenberg (dobro), David Keenan (guitar/percussion), Burke Carroll (pedal steel), Laurie Byers (harmony vocals), and Jans Ingber (percussion). The musicians on The County Primaries mesh wonderfully together, bringing out the best in the music. Though there are plenty of skillful solos, each musician blends perfectly into a tight, roots-based sound. It’s a credit to Brown’s vision and the hard work of producer Ivan Rosenberg that this music is so well crafted and reflects its place of origin so well.
Kevin’s music is rapidly gaining ground in the Northwest. Through his 10 years playing with Big Red Barn, his work DJ’ing Front Porch Bluegrass on Spokane Public Radio, and his tenure as the music director for the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival, Kevin has worked with some of the best folk musicians around and has been inspired by a rich legacy of Americana roots music. With today’s glut of well-meaning, but out-of-touch singer-songwriters flooding our airwaves, it’s so refreshing to hear a songwriter who’s lived the life he sings about, who’s in touch with others and isn’t lost in his own headspace. These are songs that resonate with each of us; that resonate with a simple truth.
- Devon Lejer, Hearth Music
The physical CD includes a full lyric booklet and original artwork by northwest artist Katherine Nelson.