Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CD (review): Junior Brown -- Austin Experience

Junior Brown. The Austin Experience. Talarc Records, 2005.

Review written by Tom Wilmeth February 7, 2006

When Junior Brown has played Milwaukee, it’s never been in the setting that he deserved. In the mid 1990s he opened for The Mavericks and years later he played Rainbow Summer. Neither venue was conducive to his talent as instrumental jaw-dropper. As such, I was ready for Brown’s live CD to pin me to the wall. It is recorded, after all, on his home turf of Austin’s Continental Club. However, while Brown performs his best known songs, the disk never really showcases the true genius of the man’s abilities.

For the uninitiated, Junior Brown plays a twin-neck instrument of his own design called the guit-steel. And true to its name, one neck consists of a traditional six-string electric, and the other neck is that of a steel guitar. It’s a heavy instrument in many ways, needing a metal stand instead of a guitar strap. Brown’s ability at style shifting is at the heart of his sets, smoothly and instantly switching from Chet Atkins finger-picking to Dick Dale surf sound to Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun,” all within a single break.

Brown gets the song selection right on this 50-minute disk, largely choosing numbers from his first albums. “You’re Wanted by the Po-lice and My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” is a song as great as its title, and “Gotta Get Up Every Morning (just to say goodnight to you)” shows Brown’s fierce Ernest Tubb style of country leanings. But in spite of the entertaining song selection, it’s always been the instrumental breaks which take the live shows to the stratosphere. There are hints of the guit-steel magic here, but this live Austin Experience sounds like an average-to-off night for this exceptional talent. Perhaps it’s the overly familiar crowd of Austin regulars to whom he need not prove anything, but Brown doesn’t seem to be swinging for the fences here. Which is too bad.

313 words #30#

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