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Neal McCoy

Les Brown Jr. and His Band of Renown Starring Neal McCoy – 2011 (DPTV Media)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Neal McCoy

There probably aren't too many contemporary country singers who can put out a jazz album and make it sound credible. Neal McCoy can, but he has a bit of an advantage. He got his start singing with a small jazz band in Texas, so making him the lead singer of a big band isn't as much of a stretch as it sounds.

Les Brown Jr., along with his Band of Renown, do just that with "Music of Your Life," which blends Brown's big band orchestra with many of McCoy's greatest hits, along with a few standards. The results don't always work, but the combination of jazz and country succeeds more often than not.

The orchestra is most in its element playing the classics like Sentimental Journey or Fly Me to the Moon. McCoy won't make anyone forget the likes of Doris Day or Frank Sinatra, but he more than holds his own. His duets with Janie Fricke and Charley Pride on It's a Cheating Situation and You're My Jamaica, respectively, also work well in this setting.

The results aren't always as positive for the modern country songs. They're Playing Our Song and No Doubt About It make the transition to a big band quite well, and even The City Put the Country Back in Me becomes a cool swing tune. But adding a jazz orchestra to The Shake just doesn't work, and there isn't a backing band in the universe that makes Rednecktified listenable.

Country music and a big band aren't exactly strangers, so Brown's concept here isn't completely foreign. When the song choice is right, combining honky tonk and horns can make for some beautiful sounds.