Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Junior Brown – Greatest Hits

I have just discovered Junior Brown through friends posting him on Facebook and I initially thought that he was an old-time player since his C&W style is old-school – not the tripe of today. His playing is tasty, highly skillful, damn fast, and he even created his own “guit-steel” – a 6-string guitar with a lap-steel guitar attached to it! He is equally dexterous on both instruments and his playing is a joy to hear.

As I said on my review of the Speedy West/Jimmy Bryant CD, C&W’s corniness has been a turn-off to me in the past and while it can be amusing, it sometimes is so over-the-top that it is distracting. Brown doesn’t go quite that far, but he certainly has his share of country goofiness. Thankfully, his playing takes your mind off of the silliness.

I have picked up a couple of his CDs since first hearing him and this hits package has several songs overlapping on both of those – “Highway Patrol” & “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” being two of them. I love when he simply lets his guitar(s) do the talking, as in “Sugar Foot Rag”, which crosses the lines of country and bluegrass and has some great string work, which at time – somewhat bizarrely – channels Jimi Hendrix! But, I do like well-rounded musicians!

“My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothin’ But Ernest Tubb” is another example of my previous complaint, but “Freeborn Man” is a stunning guitar workout and a song that lacks goofiness! Yay! This extends to “Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse” and while “Broke Down South of Dallas” and “Semi-Crazy” both border lyrically, they are still cool twangers. “Venom Wearin’ Denim” and “Joe the Singing Janitor” are a bit over the top and fairly inconsequential numbers, but “Freedom Machine” has some truly excellent playing, as does “Long Walk Back to San Antone”.

Definitely not a “serious artist” and obviously he is not trying to be, but damn, can he play guitar! Because of my aversion to lyrical wackiness, I wish he would do more instrumentals, where he shines beyond most of today’s players. But, despite all my bitchin’, he does a good job with his tunes and is a fine singer, as well. Certainly a good place for modern listeners to discover what C&W really is (as opposed to the pap that gets played on the radio these days).