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Jon Byrd

Route 41 – 2014 (Longleaf Pine)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Jon Byrd

"Quirky. Enigmatic. Interesting. Good." That's the way "Down at the Well of Wishes," Byrd's 2011 CD, described. He hasn't changed, though on this outing he's not the composer. He's performing numbers written and previously performed by his friends - a tribute to long-lasting friendships. This is alt-country. It's not the in-your-face jabberwocky played on country radio these days, nor the crooning of Marty Robbins or Ray Price. Byrd is an easygoing singer and, if you're searching for a weakness, this could be it. There isn't much track-to-track variation and your attention may start wandering.

"Just Another Gun" could be a hard-hitter (think of Hank, Jr. doing it):

I chased her down the driveway,
Told her, "baby, it's your last chance"
At least she knew I loved her
Before the gun went off

Not your everyday lyrics - you don't find many murder ballads in today's country music. "Brilliantine" is a pretty melody, but you may puzzle over the lyrics that describe a memory that's beautiful, shiny like Brilliantine. That's not something you'll often hear. "Walk On By" (not to be confused with the Dionne Warwick or Leroy Van Dyke songs) is another that's interesting, but feels a little slow as a ballad. "George Jones (Has Never Sung About My Girl)," on the other hand, could have been a Jones' number with the bass driving the song along at a moderate pace. Byrd and Thomm Jutz play guitar, Mark Fain is on upright bass and Milan Miller and Sara Beck are two of the backup singers. The music is all competently presented, the breaks are good classic country breaks (several bars long, not just a quick turnaround).

Whether Byrd tells us about the dangers of "Wine" ("It don't make me no dancer") or singing a haunting "Going To Montgomery," he's always interesting even if not invigorating. He's well worth hearing.