On her fifth full-length, guitar heroine Kaki King re-teams with producer Malcolm Burn and employs a rhythm section that includes multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson. That said, this is no mere power trio recording with an uber-guitarist fronting bass and drums. Like 2008’s Dreaming of Revenge, Junior is a songwriter's record, layered in textures and moods, with Burn’s warm production and her band helping to guide a complex, searingly emotional vision. The mood of the recording is dark, even angry, though there are certain themes of political intrigue amid personal turmoil. “The Betrayer” (one of the real rockers on the set) confesses first-person selling out another. It's followed by its mirror image in “Spit It Back in My Mouth,” that reveals a sense of personal betrayal. King uses her electric guitar more than she does her acoustic, played in her singular style that employs lead and rhythm at the same time. There are three instrumentals here, too: the meditative, atmospheric “Everything Has an End, Even in Sadness” that just bleeds warmth and melancholy; “My Nerves That Committed Suicide” begins as a moody acoustic guitar ballad, yet builds itself into a dramatic electrifying crescendo with help from Brantigan’s array of horns and keys; and “Sloan Shore,” near the album's end, presents King’s sophisticated guitar playing in a multi-layered, melodic, drifting ballad that is accented by a Hammond organ that holds the cut in place as her harmonic changes shift all over. It’s among the most haunting and beautiful things here. “Death Head” evolves into a metallic rocker, with King’s flat, quavering voice nearly barking out her lyrics. Here she allows her guitar wizardry to pull ahead of her rhythm section. The closer, an acoustic ballad called “Sunnyside,” is anything but emotional. The biggest drawback, one that can make the listener tire of the album long before it ends, is her terminally flat, undisciplined voice. More often than not, her compelling song structures suffer because of it. Ultimately, Junior feels more like a band record and furthers the sounds explored on Dreaming of Revenge.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek