Joyce Brookshire should not be played on CD. She should be played on an old crank-powered phonograph, in all its popping and hissing glory. For listening to Brookshire is like going to your grandmother's country home, sitting on her front porch swing with some hot chocolate, and staring up at her in awe as she and a few friends recount tales of their lives with the use of fiddles, piano, banjo and guitar.
Cabbagetown Ballad is essentially Brookshire's life put to music. The folksinger and activist was born and raised in Atlanta's Cabbagetown Mill Village. On the CD, she sings lovingly of the mountain folk who first emigrated there (the title track), and spits sweet fire on those who wish to gentrify it today ("Urban Pioneer"). Along the way, she decries war, pays homage to the homeless, and sings of love lost and found. It's the usual folkie terrain, but it's sung with the sincerity of someone who has lived it.
As wonderful as her stories are, it's the music that makes this release stand out. The Reel World String Band knows just when to add a touch of fiddle, guitar or piano to complement Brookshire's beautifully flat vocals. Trust me, you'll want to hear your grandma tell you stories of yesteryear after listening to this tiny gem.
Joyce Brookshire and the Reel World String Band play the Pine Lake Clubhouse, Sat., Dec. 3, 8 p.m. $7. 300 Clubhouse Drive, Pine Lake. 404-297-8398.
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