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BR5-49 wins over hard rockers

American Theater, Oct. 1,1996

By Eric Zehnbauer

BR5-49: Savior of traditional country music, or just the latest Flavor of the Month?

One thing's for sure - based on their performance before a partisan crowd of hard-rockers, they definitely have the ability to draw a lot of fans to country music that would not normally be country music fans, at least not fans of the music being played on most country stations today. The billing for this concert was "unusual," to say the least.

One look at the audience told the story; these fans came to rock out to the music of the Black Crowes, the evening's headliner.

It looked like it might be a rough night for those boys in the hillbilly outfits as they took the stage.

Appropriately, they started off with "Even If It's Wrong," taking that song's advice, doing something, even if it was wrong. There was meager crowd reaction to the first few tunes, a smattering of applause accompanied by some derisive hooting and hollering.

However, when the energy level was kicked up a notch by "Little Ramona," the crowd finally started getting into it.

When they followed up with a slow ballad, an incredibly beautiful rendition of Gram Parsons' "Hickory Wind," the few hoot'n'hollerers still present were slowly silenced by their cohorts until the only voice audible was that of Gary Bennett. The silence among the crowd was deafening as Bennett had everyone's rapt attention. As the song ended, the applause was terrific.

At this point, the boys in BR5-49 knew they'd done it - they'd won the crowd over. They then tightened their grip on the audience by ripping through "Go, Boy, Go!," "Slewfoot," and "Me & Opie (Down by the Duckpond)." The crowd went nuts!

This hillbilly band had turned a bunch of hard-rockers into true believers. For the last few tunes of their set, some members of The Black Crowes (guitarist Marc Ford, bassist Johnny Colt and vocalist Chris Robinson) came out and played and sang along with the '49ers. On their closer, a cover of the classic "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," some audience members could also be heard singing along. That is why the buzz is so big about BR5-49.

As industry bigwigs worry about the downturn in country music listenership, these guys might be just what the doctor ordered to revitalize country music.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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