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Live from Robert's – 1996 (Arista)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by BR549

The hype on the Nashville quartet grew so loud, the label rush released a six-song EP. Singing its own material, the band is known for playing songs from the '40's as well. The group (its name is derived from a phone number flashed by Junior Samples on "Hee Haw") incorporate an old feel to their songs, but by no means sounds dated. There's twang, a bit of rockabilly, a spare sound throughout. These guys may be the real deal. That's evident from the lead-off "Hillbilly Thang" about small town gas station hicks in a song about as loopy as the rest. "18 Wheels & A Crowbar" showcases a twangy guitar and sharp picking. Drummer "Hawk" Shaw Wilson keeps the steady beat here and throughout. The playing clearly has a live, unrehearsed feel. Fiddle and pedal steel from Don Herron and upright bass by Smilin Jay McDowell's spark a lively punch.

A sense of humor is ever present. "Me 'N' Opie (Down by the Duck Pond)" with its military drum beat supposedly tells the unknown Andy Griffith story involving "drug abuse and sexual deviance. "Bettie Bettie" describes a Nashville woman wrong by heading for the Big Apple where she became a "name for herself in underground films so to speak." They then launch into a most-uncountry subject matter. In this era where musicians fall easy prey to sameness, BR5-49 takes a decidedly different tact. For once, the advance word is on target. Now, we must await until later in the year for the rest of this call to come in.