When BR549 were dropped by Sony following the critical and commercial disappointment of 2001's This Is BR549, and bassist Jay McDowell and guitarist and vocalist Gary Bennett responded to this news by leaving the band, it wasn't difficult to imagine that Lower Broadway's finest had become a spent force. But thankfully, BR549 have not only bounced back from a severely rough patch, they've returned with their finest studio album since their self-titled debut, 2004's Tangled in the Pines. Blending a lean, roots rock energy with their passionate devotion to traditional country styles, Tangled in the Pines enlivens and updates BR549's sound far better than that lone Sony release (talk about a pleasant irony), while still reflecting what they do best. New members Geoff Firebaugh (bass) and Chris Scruggs (guitar and vocals) fit the group like a glove, adding new blood without disturbing BR549's essential personality, and the tart energy of "Movin' the Country" and "Ain't Got Time" pushes this band forward without losing track of what made them special. And the all-originals, no-covers set list is a nice reminder that these guys can write songs just as well as they play 'em, a fact that often gets lost in the shuffle. Who knows if BR549 are ever going to break through to the Toby Keith-loving masses, but if they don't, Tangled in the Pines stands as exceptionally strong proof that it's the audience that is missing out in that transaction.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming