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Junior Brown: Down Home Chrome

C. Michael Bailey By

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It would be very easy to dismiss Junior Brown as a retro ( really retro ) country and western act. That is if he did not have the perfect Ernest Tubb-baritone voice and play a hybrid instrument called a "git-steel." The latter is the musician's true claim to fame, a combination of an electric guitar and an eight-string lap steel guitar that he plays on a stand in front of his vocals microphone. Actually, the entire package that is Junior Brown is pretty impressive. Born in Cottonwood, Arizona, in 1952, Brown donned a suit and tie with a white crushed cowboy hat and a trademark sound that is a bit hard to describe. But let me try...



Particle physics metaphor —if one were to accelerate particles of Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Jimi Hendrix, Commander Cody, and Eddie Cochran near the speed of light and allow them to collide one would produce Junior Brown. It's as easy as E=mc2.



Down Home Chrome is Brown's debut for Telarc. Previously he has recorded five well-received discs for Curb Records. He continues with the formula he used on those discs to produce Down Home Chrome —a collection of car songs, love songs, love-lost songs, and disaster songs. While his lyrics are a bit lightweight, Brown still writes songs with greater density than the majority of what Nashville passes for country music every day.



The disc inaugurates with the 92 octane "Little Rivi-Airhead," a less than politically correct tribute to a dragster girl who is not too bright but hotter than a two dollar pistol. "Hill Country Hotrod Man" erupts like a volcano, with Brown singing of the racing life, showing off all his chops with a complete horn section. "Jimmy Jones" is a sorrowful ballad, mostly spoken-word—in the grad tradition of Johnny Cash—of a favorite son whose homecoming is a tragic one. "Two Rons Don't Make It Right" is a great play on a mistaken identity.



Brown loses his baritone (but not his swagger) on seething version of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady." Brown lays guitar waste wherever he goes on this song. He ends the disc with a ten-minute "Monkey Wrench Blues" that allows him to trace blues guitar playing from Lowell Folsom and Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Brown can sound like Waylon Jennings one minute and Merle Haggard the next (check out the duet with his wife, "Let's Go Back."). But in the end he sounds like Junior Brown and he aims to please.


Track Listing: Little Rivi-Airhead; It Hurts When I Do That; Where Has All The Money Gone; The Bridge Washed Out; Hill Country Hot Rod Man; Jimmy Jones; Let's Go Back; Two Rons Don't Make A Right; You Inspire Me; Are You Just Cutting Up; Foxy Lady; Monkey Wrench Blues.

Personnel: Junior Brown--Vocals, Guitar, Steel Guitar; Pig Robbins--Piano; Yanya Rae Brown, Vocals, Guitar; Michael Bellew--Guitar; Johnny Penner--Bass; Pete Amaral--Drums; Sam Levine--Saxophone; Mike Haynes--Trumpet; Chris Dunn--Trombone.

Title: Down Home Chrome | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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