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Many singers have good voices and many songwriters have smart lyrics, but too many singer-songwriters give short shrift to melody. Greg Brown has a distressed-leather voice and a delicate hand on acoustic guitar. Happily, he’s also got an ear for words: On his 1986 album, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he enlisted no less than esteemed poet William Blake as his lyricist. But Brown’s most notable accomplishment on Songs of Innocence was crafting natural, singable melodies for Blake’s poems; what might have been a pretentious folly became, instead, a lovely, listenable treasure. Brown’s spare-sounding, lyrically detailed portraits of people coming together and coming apart suggest the breadth of his native Midwest, but he’s also heavily influenced by Piedmont and Delta blues, which lurk around every corner of his latest release, Covenant. (And he remains a poetry fan, although I can’t verify that Covenant’s stellar track “Rexroth’s Daughter” has anything to do with Kenneth.) The new album, an exploration of midlife love, sustains Brown’s reputation as one of the most literate voices in American music today—even when he’s not collaborating with 18th-century Romantics. Celebrate the release of Covenant at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $19.50. (703) 549-7500. (Pamela Murray Winters)