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Junior Brown

Mixed Bag – 2001 (Curb)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Junior Brown

Junior Brown is one of the most electrifying live performers around, but that has never translated into big record sales. Albums lack the striking visual aspect of Brown, in his old style cowboy hat, hunched over that strange instrument (the guit-steel) that is his alone. And neither his dazzling guitar picking or his laid-back Ernest Tubb style vocals fits in at today's mainstream radio.

As its title indicates, this album continues his eclectic formula. Fast-paced guitar showcases such as Jerry Reed's "Guitar Man," "Catfish and Collard Greens" and the instrumental "The Chase" mix with Tubb-y country ballads from the serious ("Our First Bluebonnet Spring" and "Grow Up America") to the poignant ("Little Town Square"). There's also the intentionally silly spy romance "Cagey Bea" (which includes couplet-of-the-year candidate "She was handing out the borscht, so I jumped right in her Porsche").

Some of the slower songs, like "Cagey Bea" and "Runnin' With The Wind" feature some quieter picking from Brown which contrasts nicely with his flash on the up-tempo numbers. There is one new wrinkle added, with Dixieland horns on "Riverboat Shuffle" and "Kansas City Blues" (a genuine Ernest Tubb song). Fans of Brown's earlier albums won't be disappointed with this one.