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Dream Cafe

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Deep in the shadows of successful, folk-based performers like Tracy Chapman and Michelle Shocked there are myriad traditional folkies who still tread the boards, creating personal music acoustically rendered, sampling and synthesizers be damned. Few seek out — much less deserve — popular acclaim. Here are two who do. The standout is New England’s Bill Morrissey, who pits his gravelly voice — as rocky as a Maine shoreline — against his finely rendered portraits of decidedly unlovable losers. Morrissey’s a thoroughgoing pro at using a single line to fasten a song in your mind: ”Coughing up blood in a Motel 6,” for example, in the gritty ”Everybody Warned Me.” Some people think Morrissey is an unjustly overlooked major artist; Inside gives them strong evidence. Midwesterner Greg Brown, a pal of Morrissey’s, is in similar territory, though he’ll take refuge in the stolid rhyme (”10 o’clock/Above my block/In just my socks” from ”Just by Myself”) in a way that Morrissey never would. But on Dream Café he’s more varied musically — he’ll do a grinding blues and even flirt with jazz. Also, he wields simpler but more forceful melodies, and is still very capable of pulling off a marvelous portrait, as in the moving ”Spring Wind.” Brown: B

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