With his creaky, rumbling voice and crying slide guitar, it's easy to relegate Junior Brown's efforts to the realm of genre exercise. Any of this stuff fits right in on a truck stop jukebox, or in the repertoire of a honky-tonk bar-band. Listening for the subtleties, however, sets you right.
On this, his first effort since 1996's award-winning "Semi-Crazy," the eclectic Brown tries his hand at doo-wop sing-alongs ("(I'm Just) Looking For Love"), frenzied '50's surf-rock (a cover of Elvis' "Rock-A-Hula Baby," accented with what sounds like Hawaiian steel) and even some rough blues ("Keepin' Up With You," a great track that includes Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell flailing about).
Surprises come in nearly every song, thanks to Brown's proficiency on his 'guit-steel,' a stringed-instrument combo allowing him to add all kinds of elements to a basic idea. Some numbers fall flat ("Freedom Machine," an ode to a car that we've heard before), but Brown's plucky spirit mostly carries through.