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Junior Brown

Down Home Chrome – 2004 (Telarc)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Junior Brown

If you think you've got Junior Brown figured out, if you have him mentally filed away as that retro Texan who does those weird-but-cool tunes like "Highway Patrol" and "Hillbilly Hula Gal," then you're selling Junior short. He's more than a novelty act.

On his first CD since 2001's "Mixed Bag" Brown gives us the expected pun tracks like "Two Rons Don't Make it Right" and "Little Rivi-Airhead" (about a none-too-bright babe and her Buick) and great lyrical wordplay like "The only green she left me is out in my front lawn" (from "Where Has All the Money Gone?"), but that's just for starters.

"It Hurts When I Do That" sounds like an old-fashioned cry-in-your-beer tune, but listen carefully, it's actually his Siamese cat he's pining for not a woman. Brown shows his more romantic side on "You Inspire Me." "Foxy Lady" is a faithful Jimi Hendrix cover complete with psychedelic distortion, and Brown gives Jimi a run for his money on the frets. "Monkey Wrench Blues" the extended jam that closes out the CD is 10 minutes and 31 seconds of the answer to the question of what he Grateful Dead might have sounded like had they hailed from Austin instead of Haight-Ashbury.

Now can a mere novelty act do all that?