Junior Brown plays just fine, but whatever happened to new music?
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Sept. 18, 2004
SOMERVILLE, MA - Junior Brown has a very fine new album out, "Down Home Chrome." So fans flocking to see him in concert would rightfully expect to hear the guy with that contraption of a guitar known as the guit-steel play a chunk of the dozen new songs. Right? Well if that was the hope, they would have been dead wrong in their prediction because the crowd would have had to wait 75 minutes into the set - in fact, the last song of the regular set - before hearing "Foxy Lady," the Jimi Hendrix masterpiece. And Brown often has played the song during previous shows.
Otherwise, it was meat and potatoes Junior Brown, only perhaps a bit better than usual. The sleepy dog looking Brown with his droopy eyelids mixed it up between country, western swing, blues rock, jazz, surf, Hawaiian and genres in between.
Brown, in essence, showed his many talents on many different types of music and almost all to very fine effect.
What Brown offered was a run through of his catalogue with many songs of a humorous bent thanks to some great lyrics.
That would include such staples as "My Wife Thinks You're Dead'," "Highway Patrol" and "Gotta Get Up Every Morning.".
Brown sings with a bit of a drawl and got a lot of soul in his voice.
He also is one heck of a guitarist. His guit-steel contraption is basically two instruments - an electric guitar and steel guitar - on one body. Doing so enables Brown to alternate between the two, sometimes within the same song, offering very different sounds. Brown's playing often is quite fast, but he can also slow it down to great effect as well. While the instrument may look like some sort of gimmick, Brown's playing makes sure it is not.
Brown tended to keep the pace a bit slower than usual, but that only tended to let the songs breathe even more.
Brown was ably backed by three-decades long drummer Pete Amaral, who keeps it very simple with a single snare drum and cymbal, and Johnny Penner on bass. Neither is particularly flashy, but they are more than up to the task of keeping up with Brown.
As if to emphasize the music itself, Brown played seven straight instrumentals, including "Secret Agent Man" and the surf classic "Walk Don't Run." An unusual song selection process for sure.
Brown's show hasn't varied very much over the years - he's quite good at what he does though it seemed like he stretchd it out a bit more musically. What would have made it even better was if he had pushed his new album far far more.