Pieta Brown’s latest EP Flight Time is written in a world occupied by Cadillacs and run away lovers, and in which a gallon of gas still cost 36 cents; somewhere just down the road from Tom Waits’ “Burma Shave.” However, this isn’t some sort of forced nostalgia. When she sings about “corn dancin’ on a soft, dirt floor,” on album opener “Sunrise, Highway 44” it’s not dust bowl imagery cribbed from a Woody Guthrie lyric sheet, Brown places you in this world from word one.
“Silos and smokestacks / dirty, odd trees / halos in junkyards / and dogs runnin’ free,” this is picture of isolation Brown paints on “Sunrise, Highway 44” But when she sings of “blue jeans and dresses on an unmade bed / unmade confessions, flowers all red” this large unmanageable landscape gains a personal focus that even city dwellers can relate to.
Brown also shows a gift for nuance. In her hands the bite of “Bad News” isn’t just petty bitterness, despite the song’s bluesy bar room shuffle that would fit anger like an old t-shirt. “Bad News” is all about the regret that the signs of a small-town romance are always present because there’s no where escape them.
And, as if to prove she’s not just an exceptional lyricist and vocalist, Brown includes the lavish, dust blown instrumental “I Thought I Heard You Call My Name” which puts the focus on the long, wistful breezes of slide guitar that blow casually across the rest of the EP’s landscape. “I Thought I Heard” paints the same pictures with sustained piano structures, nimble finger-picked guitar, and that slide guitar that she sprinkles lyrically throughout the other six tracks on Flight Time. In seven tracks Brown has delivered a full picture of life in rural Iowa, one that’s palatable for more than just small town kids.