July 26, 2021

Peter Stone Brown Archives

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Lloyd Fonvielle on the mystery of Songs

Review of a Peter Stone Browns gig at the Baggot Inn in NYC in 2002, by screenwriter Lloyd Fonvielle

When Peter Stone Brown started singing Friday night I knew it was going to be a great performance.  It occurred to me that this was probably Peter’s first gig since the show at MSG (which turned out to be the case) and that he was undoubtedly still soaring like most of us in the audience from what Dylan did on Monday, still tuned in to the mystery of it.

About halfway through the show, Peter announced that this was his first gig in Greenwich Village (at a place called the Baggot Inn on West 3rd) — or his first club gig, anyway, since he’d sometimes played al fresco in Washington Square Park, just a block away.  “I played songs like this,” he said — and launched into a powerful version of “Golden Vanity”.  I felt as though I was getting the inside dope on what it felt like to cross the lonesome sea under canvas in the days of sail, which Peter cannot possibly have any personal experience of . . . but a guy who heard the song from a guy who heard the song from the guy who wrote the song picked up something about it that’s just there in the words and music, and anyone who knows anything about lonesome highways and music and singing can get to it again, if he’s willing to follow the wind.

Then Peter did an equally powerful version of “As I Went Out One Morning”, Dylan’s riff on an 18th-Century ballad, and he summoned up the bard’s improbable introduction of “La Bell Dame Sans Merci” to a pop cartoon of Tom Paine, and I was in that dreamscape with them all.  And then one of Peter’s own songs, “You Don’t Have To Close The Door” — “I would take the train, but that train don’t stop here anymore” and the sadness of it merged with the spookiness of the earlier two songs, and Peter decided to take it all one step further, into madness, perhaps . . . and he sang “Moonlight”.  Crooning that sinister but still sexy invitation, with its over-ripe imagery of nature rotting sweetly like human flesh, of oaks taking up the lover’s moan of despair, or lunacy, or desire, depending on how you look at it.

Just a passage of four songs in the middle of a memorable set — but such a long journey, on ships whose timbers have long since shattered, on trains that pass by without stopping, across rivers swollen with tears, in the company of spirits, to places that don’t have names.