Coming up in Detroit’s punk scene with a hardcore band called Terrible Twos, Craig Brown always held a secret flame for country-ish albums like The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. As he exited his twenties, he started getting more in touch with his love for the brash and poetically brooding gusto of balladeers like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. All three of those flavors marinate together on The Lucky Ones Forget: woozy, traipsing vocal melodies sung in a nasal twang over guitar phrases that vary from urgent and frolicsome to a milder, decelerated musing. Several songs whip along with jangly guitars, and barn-dance stomps, under Brown’s higher-ranged, reedy, rustbelt vocals.
The Craig Brown Band blends two guitars: a tumbling acoustic is often strummed under the shinier flourishes from Eric Allen’s electric guitar that curls cool phrases at the corners of each measure. The drums are designed for either an instantly catchy toe-tap or a steady locomotive chug, while the bass has an embellished bob & weave bounce to it perfect for country, folk or even polka. Then there’s Brown’s voice, which can be defiant and vulnerable at the same time. His angular rasp is often given a sweet augmentation by soft, angelic backing harmonies from Caitlin and Bonnie Drinkard.
This album’s basically a character study of this northern Midwestern rock ‘n’ roller and his peculiar yet poignant outlooks on life, rendered lyrically with these simple yet signature turns of phrase over a panoply of giddy-up drums and galloping guitar riffs. And many of the songs’ lyrics don’t shy away from some of country rock’s typical lyrical jargon (indulging imagery of heartbroken cowboys on the wrong side of the road). While there are plenty of nonsensical-sounding quips about trading his shoddy van in for a horse, he’ll disarm you with a breezy kind of suddenness in the very next verse with something of substantive emotional import and wistful lamentation.
Sure, a lot of the tunes feel like genuine country warblers, but Brown may have made an effective gateway album just for those types of listeners who may be leery of a few rolls in the proverbial hay. The idea is to pleasantly surprise you, which exactly the case with The Lucky Ones Forget.