California Jukebox comes off as another solid and listenable (though not outstanding) album that offers few surprises or exciting moments -- but is more appealing than most contemporary 1990s country. All-star appearances by Jo-El Sonnier on accordion, Buck Owens on acoustic guitar, and Waylon Jennings and Charlie Louvin making lead vocal contributions do little to lift this album out of the mediocrity that the band has been mired in since Gram Parsons' departure. The inclusion of Son Volt's "Windfall" and the Jayhawks' "Two Hearts" shows just how far this Flying Burrito Brothers lineup (including Sneaky Pete Kleinow as the only remaining original member) has fallen to have to follow the alternative country elite that no doubt took some of their primary influence from the original Burrito Brothers lineup. However, the basic song arrangements -- incorporating (among other things) mandolins, accordions, and castanets -- are very agreeable, though the majority of the 15 tracks lack outstanding or distinctive vocals. Jennings does little to pump much life into Rodney Crowell's "I Ain't Living Long Like This," though Louvin's appearance on "My Baby's Gone" is a perfect fit in the vein of the Louvin Brothers' penchant for tragic songs of lost love. Still, the album suffers from an underwhelming homogeneous sound and an overall lack of consistent quality material. It remains to be seen if a band of mostly veteran sidemen recording a mix of nondescript originals and covers can maintain a lasting relevancy.
AllMusic Review by Matt Fink