BR5-49 was hardly the first retro-country act to emerge in the 1990s, but as one of the first trad-style C&W bands to gain a following (and a major label contract) in Nashville for nearly 20 years, they suggested that in the midst of Garth-mania there were still folks in Music City hungry for some down-home twang in the classic style, which made country music a phenomenon in the first place. BR5-49's self-titled debut album may lack a bit of the grit and high spirits of their live show (either as witnessed in person or as preserved on the Live at Robert's EP), but it does a great job of capturing this band's spunky attitude and superb chops, and makes clear they can write original songs just as well as they can give new life to classics by Moon Mullican and Ray Price. While a few tunes like "Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)" play to the slightly kitschy side of the group's collective personality, "Even if It's Wrong," "One Long Saturday Night," and "Lifetime to Prove" testify that BR5-49 truly respect classic country music, and write songs as smart and heartfelt as the classics they cover. And boy, can they play -- Don Herron shines on every instrument he touches (including fiddle, steel guitar, and mandolin), Shaw "Hawk Shaw" Wilson and Smilin' Jay McDowell are a superbly uncluttered rhythm section, and Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead can pick just as well as they harmonize (and that's mighty fine indeed). Adding a here-and-now energy and drive to classic styles of the past, BR5-49 proves you can not only have it both ways, but have a great time to boot.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming