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BR5-49 – 1996 (Arista)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by BR549

In a way, BR5-49's position isn't an enviable one. Should this - their debut album -take off, labels throughout Nashville will scramble to sign "their own BR5-49." If the album bombs it'll likely poison the waters for other traditionalists looking to sign with a major label. Nope, no pressure there at all....

So after one sifts through the hype and expectations, how does BR5-49 hold up? Pretty well, actually.

The group blends time-tested honky-tonk, western swing, and a little rockabilly into a sound that's far from original, but is always a welcome relief on the radio these days - assuming that radio will pick up on the album at all. The album opens with the now-anachronistic sound of crackly vinyl and leaps straight into their catchy original, "Even If It's Wrong." "Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)" catches up with the subject of the Ramones' 1977 tune, "Ramona," and finds that she's "traded in her safety pin tee-shirts for Manuel suits," as have some of the members of BR5-49 themselves.

The album is heavy on cover versions (five out of the album's 11 songs are covers) but no heavier than many country albums of the fifties and sixties. An auspicious start to what will hopefully be a long and profitable career.