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BR549

Tangled in the Pines – 2004 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by BR549

You could call this the new BR549, mark two. The hyphen is still gone, and original members Gary Bennett and Smilin' Jay McDowell have also departed, with new bassist Geoff Firebaugh and guitar wunderkind Chris Scruggs coming in as their replacements. And after one release on Sony imprint Lucky Dog, the band has moved to independent label Dualtone.

The Lucky Dog release seemed animated by the attempt to find a mainstream niche without compromising what made BR549 BR549. The attempt didn't succeed; "This Is BR549" was a fine record that was marked by subtle changes - no novelty songs, material from contemporary songwriters instead of classic C&W covers - but went nowhere in airplay or sales. Their new one pulls back a bit without simply returning to the band's early signifiers. There are no covers (old or new) here, and the band is still steering clear of its former retro dress and attitude.

What's left is plenty of vintage-sounding BR549, most of it now coming from the pen of Chuck Mead. There's characteristic BR549 fast things such as "Ain't Got Time" and "Way Too Late" (both featuring the familiar high whine of Don Herron's steel) and the balladry of "She's Talking to Someone" and "I'm Alright." "When I Come Home" sounds like a lost Hank Williams track, with Herron channeling the sound of Don Helms. The soul licks on "No Train to Memphis" and the raw bluesy vibe of "Run a Mile" bring a couple of new sounds to the mix, but for the most part, sonically speaking, this is tried-and-true BR549.