Pieta Brown & Dream #9 at the Mill in Iowa City 6-12-09 (review)

Pieta Brown Live at the Mill Iowa City Poster

As I reported earlier, Pieta Brown assembled a band to shake up her live performances, which are typically a duo (usually with Bo Ramsey on guitars). This makes for a very intimate performance and Pieta’s music and vocals undeniably shine in this setup, but it’s been my opinion for a while that she should perform in a band setting to more closely approximate her albums. So, I was naturally very interested to see this lineup at the Mill. I wasn’t too concerned about the success of this, since Dream #9 is made up of regular sidemen– Bo Ramsey on lead guitar and Jon Penner on bass. Dream #9 also has Jim Viner on drums. Jim has worked with Bo and Jon frequently, and Jim is also on Pieta’s new self-released EP Flight Time with Bo and Jon.

Friday night was rainy, and the prospects of subjecting my gear to certain watery peril was eating away at my resolve it seemed. Eventually with the coaxing of my wife I made a late departure from Cedar Rapids. The show started at 8PM, and the opening act– Parlour Suite— came with good online reviews, but my late departure meant I would miss most– if not all of their set. Indeed, I walked in at 8:45 and they were just wrapping up their set.

I ran into Jim Viner and his wife Katy eating at one of the booths so I got the lowdown on the Daytrotter session. Jim finished his chicken strips and made for the stage and I ended up sitting with Katy most of the night– when I wasn’t out shooting pictures anyway.

Pieta Brown and Dream #9 at The Mill

One of the first surprising things about this band lineup is that Pieta is playing electric guitar, too! I sort expected that she’d rock the acoustic, and leave the electric up to Bo. She concentrated on two guitars– a black Gibson SG with a P-90 pickup, and a Reverend Flatroc with a Bigsby. I recognized both of these guitars as being Bo’s. I saw that SG for the first time at Bo’s last gig at the Mill. The Reverend is one he’s had for a while, and is a unique guitar in that Reverend didn’t make many with the Bigsby, and in fact isn’t a standard option. After the show I asked Pieta about the guitars and she said that the guitars she wanted to play hadn’t arrived. She said that she has a Reverend Flatroc coming as well as a white Fender Telecaster! Those will be very complimentary to Bo’s guitars since one of his primary axes is a Telecaster Deluxe, too. Pieta said that she used to play electric guitar out when she lived in Tulsa and had a band– a fact I hadn’t heard before.

Bo Ramsey of Dream #9

Jim Viner of Dream #9

Jon Penner of Dream #9

Dream #9 is made up of seasoned musicians and are able to pull together a show on-the-fly with little prep. Effectively this band has only been playing Pieta’s songs for a couple of days– but they all found the pocket in Pieta’s songs perfectly.

Pieta Brown live in Iowa City

The show was a quick hour-and-a-half single set. The Mill wraps their shows up pretty early– the show was over by 11PM. So, don’t worry about going to mid-week shows here– you should still be in bed in time for work the next day provided you behave yourself! I was surprised about the low turn out. I guess the rain kept folks home– like it almost did for me.

The set was made up of a nice selection from all of Pieta’s albums and included some new songs that I assume are under consideration for a new album. All of Pieta’s songs benefit from the country-blues sound that I equate with Bo Ramsey and his projects. It gives the songs a similar feel and recognizable to her albums– all of which Bo helped produce. I would have liked to hear more songs from the new EP, but I suspect that as the band plays together more there will be variation in the set list. It was pretty clear that having the two Iowa shows was giving the group the home-court advantage to work out any kinks that might exist with this new arrangement.

Bo Ramsey and Pieta Brown

I really like Pieta fronting a band like this– it draws natural comparisons to other strong female artists like Lucinda Williams or maybe even Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders. A good, structured driving rhythm really shows the strength of the songs– and not for a lack of intimacy where needed. On the song “Even When” from the Flight Time EP the band shows knows how to carry a gentle song, too.

Listening to the band and Pieta talking after the show it was clear that they were satisfied with the results, so hopefully we’ll start seeing more Dream #9-fueled shows in the future!

The band did record a Daytrotter show on Thursday, so I hope that session gets released in the near future.

Setlist (1 hour 27 minutes):

Sunrise Highway #44
In My Mind I Was Talking to Loretta
Rollin’ and Tumbin’
You’re My Lover Now
Rollin’ Down The Track
Bad News
Loving You Still
807
How Many Times Do I Hear Myself Say These Things
Faller (introduced as a new song)
West Monroe
I’m Going Away Blues (Frank Stokes cover)
Hey Run
Even When
Fourth of July
Over You
Remember The Sun
Are You Free

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