Junior Brown

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Other than Junior Brown's label affiliation, little else has changed on the singer/guitarist's sixth album and first in four years. Honky tonk, rockabilly, and the rich sound of Bakersfield country are leavened with a healthy sense of humor ("Two Rons Don't Make It Right," "Where Has All the Money Gone?"), played with Brown's custom-made 12-string "guit-steel," and sung in his distinctive baritone. Side trips into lounge-ish jazz ("You Inspire Me"), hard rock ( perhaps not an entirely necessary cover of Hendrix's "Foxey Lady"), and slow blues (an album-closing ten-minute "Monkey Wrench Blues") seem like desperate attempts to show how eclectic he is. They might be live showstoppers, but just don't blend in well with the rest of the disc's more countrified approach. Much better is "Jimmy Jones," a classic, laconic, mostly spoken story-song about a brother who wanders off to his death in war. The horn-fueled jump blues swing of "Hill Country Hot Rod Man" is another diversion, but this one seems more natural and is an excellent forum for Brown's guitar pyrotechnics. A little too spotty, especially in its schizophrenic last quarter hour, the album is an adequate representation of the different styles that define Junior Brown. The pacing doesn't support his talent, making this a frustrating if somewhat enjoyable listen that is probably better appreciated after you have seen him live.

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