CD Review of The Austin Experience by Junior Brown

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The Austin Experience
starstarstarno starno star Label: Telarc
Released: 2006
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You know what? Just when it seems like there's no such thing as a regional act anymore – you've got national record distribution practices putting the exact same crappy records on display at Sam Goody in Atlanta and Tower on Mass Ave. in Boston, you got Clear Channel homogenizing the radio waves, and of course MTV steamrolling the music-video playing field – a dude like Junior Brown pops up on the radar. This guy's material, stuck in that sweet intersection of rockabilly, blues, and country, is mournful and funny, romantic and campy. This CD captures one of his regular performances at the Continental Club in Austin, featuring a mix of covers and originals – some of which became sing-along crowd favorites such as the Hawaiian-tinged "Hillbilly Hula Gal" and the hilarious running-into-an-ex song "(You're Wanted by the Po-lice and) My Wife Thinks You're Dead." He also gives Tex-Mex fans a tip of his cowboy hat by inviting superstar accordionist Flaco Jimenez onstage for "Juan Charasquado."

Even though you have no idea who Junior Brown is, you can't help but be sucked in to the show and enjoy it, hearing the tunes and the crowd singing along with abandon. Part of the allure is Brown's basso voice and its gentle Texas drawl, perfect for steeping deadpan humor into his lyrics. But more than that, the guy's a virtuoso guitar player conversant in many styles from rockabilly to slide to the aforementioned Hawaiian twang. It's all subtle, too; there are no Jimi Hendrix moments where you basically get the fretboard banged upside the head (although his long solo in "I Hung It Up" comes close). Instead, Junior Brown just does what he does with his homemade instrument called the "guit-steel," a two-necked contraption that's both an electric guitar and a steel guitar, and he flits between them like it's no big deal. By the end of the show, if your jaw's not a-droppin’, you must have been sitting at the bar a little too long sucking down mojitos.

Even though you might not know much about Junior Brown, don't be afraid to jump on the bandwagon: This summer he's opening for Bob Dylan, and by the time September and October rolls around and the fall festival season winds down, a lot more people will know about him. You can say you heard about him here first.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD