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Big Backyard Beat Show – 1998 (Arista)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by BR549

Beyond the clothes and good time approach, BR5-49 doesn't phone this one in as they move beyond their first two releases with a more diverse package. Yeah, there still are covers: Buck's "There Goes My Love," where lead singer Gary Bennett sounds quite at home, "Wild One," a one-time hit for Iggy Pop, though it's definitely country here, "Seven Nights to Rock" and Billy Joe Shaver's "Georgia on a Fast Train." These covers are far more chronologically recent than those on the last CD, perhaps an attempt to ensure the band doesn't fall victim to faddists.

While the covers are well done, the originals are strong and expand the musical horizon. Fellow lead singer Chuck Mead's "Out of Habit" takes a page from the swing/big band sound now in vogue. "Goodbye, Maria" is a Mexican/polka thing which sounds bright and cheery, even if the story ain't. But they keep it country with "Hurtin' Song," "Storybook Endings (If You Stop Believin')," and ""You Are Never Nice to Me."

This is a band still growing and expanding its musical bent, but not trying to be everything to everyone. That's probably a good thing so the quintet doesn't fall trap to being pigeon-holed as kitsch mongers. The number to call for lively, well-written country music with a few twists and turns remains the same.