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Joel Harrison

So Long Second 2nd Street: Free Country II – 2004 (ACT)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Joel Harrison

Jazz records don't usually get reviewed in the pages of a country magazine, but this one is unusual, if still pushing the boundaries. This is Joel Harrison's second "free country" release. That label, with its riff off the stylistic term "free jazz," is a nice descriptor of his intention - in his words, "to locate the convergence of Miles Davis and Johnny Cash...to combine simple, timeless Appalachian and country melodies with elaborate, modern improvisation and arranging...to tell old [stories] in a new way."

Starting with a handful of classic country songs of various shades - the Stanley Brothers' "Riding on the Midnight Train," Haggard's "White Line Fever," Jimmy Webb's "Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman," plus "Shady Grove," "Oh Death" and other traditional songs - Harrison and his band do take their material to new places.

At times the sound isn't that far from the atmospheric twanginess of Bill Frisell or Viktor Krauss or the tin hat trio; but there's much hard swinging, extended soloing and thematic development, too. The results are always interesting, and frequently a lot more than that.